The latest path for D2, the proposed second DART rail transit path through downtown Dallas, received support and some criticism as it was unveiled at a Dallas City Council Transportation Committee meeting Monday.
The new alignment maintains the western side of the proposed route but revises the east side in Deep Ellum, where there was strong opposition to the previous plan earlier this year.
Deep Ellum property owners and business people objected to a planned surface-level transit interchange at the point where the subway was to come above ground and meet DART’s existing Green Line.
Opponents said the web of tracks and noisy trains would disrupt the neighborhood that is beginning to thrive after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In the new plan, Deep Ellum is avoided entirely and the eastern portion of D2 remains below ground. It calls for a subway station under the east side DART bus transfer station and an underground link to DART’s existing Cityplace subway.
Dallas City Councilmember Jesse Moreno, who represents Deep Ellum, was pleased.
“This plan is encouraging and I'm overall supportive of the recommendation. Thanks for working with our stakeholders,” Moreno said.
The new subway route would also avoid conflict with the Interstate 345 elevated freeway, which connects Interstate 45 with Central Expressway.
Planners have suggested that removing the elevated structure that divides Deep Ellum from Downtown Dallas could reunite the two areas. The previous D2 alignment was to rise to the surface immediately under the elevated roadway, also complicating the future of that highway.
Council member Gay Donnell Willis said she was pleased with the I-345 adjustment and with public input planners sought for their new route.
“So, I’m supportive of the plan,” Willis said.
But some Green Line riders who pass through Deep Ellum now from southeast Dallas to jobs in the north might have to exit at that east side hub station and walk more than a block to other rail lines on the surface and transfer for jobs in the future, according to portions of the plan offered Monday.
“We'd gotten to the place where I could live with and then here we go making southeast Dallas the sacrificial lamb again,” councilman Adam Bazaldua said. “I’m not going to support this with such a substantial impact to service when it comes to southeast Dallasites and I would like for DART to come with a more equitable option for us to explore.”
Transportation planners said Green Line trains could be routed through the new path to avoid transfers and alleviate the concerns.
And while many riders still rely on public transit, it turns out DART ridership remains 45% below what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Clearly this project is being deferred until ridership goals can be met and that's going to be quite some time,” Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn said.
Committee members told staff to continue working with DART to advance design to pursue crucial federal funding, which would pay most of the cost. The extra underground portion could push the price to nearly $2 billion.
At the same time, they asked for attention to other transit priorities at DART.
“We have to be in better communication with our DART board appointees as well as them with us, so that's what we're working on now,” councilmember Omar Narvaez said.
An Oct. 2016 Dallas City Council resolution asked that the D2 subway be constructed at the same time as the Silver Line transit link from Plano to DFW Airport and with improved bus service.
The city council received a 2018 update on DART progress with those goals.
Many of the bus improvements will be happening soon and the Silver Line, formerly known as Cotton Belt, is already in the early stages of construction.
Federal infrastructure funding could be a boost to the I-345 plan and to public transit projects. But based on Monday’s discussion, it could be years longer before the D2 project reaches construction.