After more than 30 years of talk DART broke ground Thursday on a 26 mile East-West rail transit line to link Plano with DFW International Airport.
The project most people knew as the “Cotton Belt” for the railroad that once used the alignment is now called the Silver Line.
Multiple ceremonies were held in cities along the path, including Addison, where years of sales taxes paid to DART produced only bus service.
"Patience paid off," Addison Mayor Joe Chow said.
Once the new rail line opens, his frequent trip to DFW Airport for travel may be twice as fast.
"More dependable, faster, more comfortable," Chow said.
College student Desalia Wynn saw plans for the route for the first time Thursday.
"I run the bus and train everywhere," she said. "This would be probably my main mode of transportation if I go anywhere, riding this new rail line."
Unlike DART's light rail electric trains, the Silver Line will use self-powered cars like the Denton County Transit Authority's A-Trains and TEX Rail trains that operate between DFW Airport and downtown Fort Worth.
The TEX Rail trains run on another leg of the same former "Cotton Belt" path.
"The beauty of this is it's not really a 26 mile corridor. It's a 60 mile corridor. It connects downtown Fort Worth to everything on the eastern side of the region," said DART CEO Gary Thomas.
Years of delays came over funding and strong opposition from North Dallas residents who do not want the commuter trains running on the tracks that cut between back yards.
"We're concerned mostly about safety," said Highlands of McKamy Homeowners Association President Maura Schreier-Fleming.
She said her main complaint now is plans for a surface level Silver Line train crossing over a hike and bike trail that runs North and South along Meandering Way.
"We want the train to go underneath. Whatever DART has to do, they need to do it right," she said.
Thomas said safety is DART's number one concern but final design for that crossing has not been completed.
"We're trying to make sure that we balance being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and addressing the community needs," Thomas said.
Silver Line opposition has come from supporters of a second downtown light rail line who fear the Silver Line will make it impossible for DART to raise the money necessary for so called 'D-2.'
"We have built a 20 year financial plan to make sure we can do both projects in the time frame that we said we could," Thomas said.
D-2 is not yet ready for ground breaking, but completion is still forecast for 2024. The Silver Line is due for 2022 completion.
There was another Silver Line ground breaking ceremony Thursday at the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson.
The UTD student population has doubled to nearly 30,000 the past decade.
The campus with new housing, business and research buildings had spread on the north side to a planned Silver Line rail station.
University officials said they planned Transit Oriented Development, before the transit arrived for a link to DFW Airport.
"This allows us to connect UT Dallas to the world," said Calvin Jamison, UTD Vice President for Facilities and Economic Development. "The more cars we can take off the highways, the better off we are. And so having a multi-modal approach and focus on sustainability, we have an opportunity to do some very special things at UT Dallas that will help the entire region."
Thomas said the old Cotton Belt rail path has been there for 120 years and now it is finally becoming useful for rail transit.
"It's going to become a vital part of everyday life for a lot of people," Thomas said.