The proposed Dallas rail transit subway won unanimous support from the Dallas City Council Wednesday in a compromise resolution.
It came after strong last minute opposition, years of planning and $20 million already spent by DART on design.
DART officials said the resolution was crucial to win a necessary $800 million federal construction grant. DART must fund the remainder of the $1.7million project.
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But the compromise leaves strings attached and requires future cooperation by multiple transportation agencies.
In animation produced by DART to advance the project to 30% design, riders would reach trains through several downtown stations.
The agency says the so-called “D-2” is necessary to relieve rail congestion on the single light rail line that all trains use to pass through downtown now.
Years ago, the Dallas City Council insisted that D-2 be a subway to avoid traffic congestion on the surface.
As recently as Tuesday in a City Council Transportation Committee meeting where the compromise resolution was crafted, Councilman Lee Kleinman worried about the project’s future.
“We could do the death of a thousand cuts on this thing as we've done for years but the real death of D-2 will be losing that grant,” Kleinman said.
That was the fear over opposition from the east end of the planned route where D-2 would rejoin DART rail in Deep Ellum after the subway returned to the surface under the elevated highway transportation planners call I-345.
“And I prefer not just a little bit, but I prefer very strongly that we stay underground as much as possible. I don't like the idea of these trains coming up on the west or east side of I-345,” Councilman David Blewett said.
Language in the compromise resolution keeps Deep Ellum options open. DART and city officials believe it will still be strong enough endorsement of D-2 to pass muster with federal officials. Local transportation agencies promise to cooperate on refining final plans.
North Central Texas Council of Governments Transportation Director Micheal Morris helped broker the deal.
“This is a game changer for not just downtown, Deep Ellum, east Dallas and the southern sector. And it's really up to you as council members how many ornaments do you wish to put on this particular tree,” Morris said.
One ornament is the dream of removing I-345 entirely or depressing it below grade to open a new gateway for development on hundreds of acres of land currently occupied by the highway between downtown and Deep Ellum.
Another is the assurance that DART will still have money enough to improve bus service in Southern Dallas.
Councilman Chad West wants completion of a proposed extension of the trolley that currently serves his Oak Cliff district to be integrated in the subway plan.
“I think it’s important to recognize that this could be a big addition to our central business district, multi-modal transportation,” West said.
Councilman Omar Narveaz who leads the City Council Environment Committee says the alternative to Wednesday’s vote would expand freeways in the future.
“And that's not going to help us in any way shape or for achieve our climate reduction plan,” Narvaez said.
It will be years before all the ornaments appear in Dallas, but the leaders discussing it all today believe the congestion that makes it all wise planning will appear as the COVID-19 pandemic leaves town.
The subway price tag could be $1.7 million. DART must fund what the federal government does not.
Talk of a federal infrastructure bill to boost jobs could help pay for many of the projects on the Dallas list.