New plans for a proposed Downtown Dallas Subway were unveiled Tuesday at Dallas City Hall. Members of the Dallas City Council Transportation Committee voiced concerns about how Dallas Area Rapid Transit will pay the $1.4 billion price tag.
The plans include a refined 2-mile route and station locations for the second downtown rail path, known as D-2. There are five stations, three of them access points to the proposed underground light rail tunnel.
The path splits from existing DART light rail near the American Airlines Center with a new stop at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
“This would be a great resource for the community, that we could use DART, start right here,” museum visitor Pedro Lombardo said. ”And I live in Irving, which is part of Dallas County, so I would take DART from Irving, avoid traffic, not spend on gas.”
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From there, the new line would go under Woodall Rodgers Freeway to a planned tunnel portal on a surface parking lot area where a large development is planned.
Spokesman Gordon Shattles said DART was working with property owners along the new route.
“The portals we’re looking at, the opportunities beside the street, what works best with pedestrian traffic, that’s part of the design we’re working towards,” Shattles said.
The next subway station on the planned route would connect with the existing DART West End rail and bus terminals near Lamar and Main streets.
A station at Pegasus Plaza on Main Street is planned on the back side of the Magnolia Hotel, where the Dallas icon Pegasus is a feature on the roof.
“Especially right underneath the Pegasus, that’s what I love,” said DART rider Camille Schuh, an El Centro College student.
She said the existing single DART rail path through Downtown is often very crowded.
“It would be so much easier with an extra one, especially right here in the heart of Downtown. I know so many people that make this their everyday routine, so it would make it a lot easier,” she said.
A station at the corner of Main and Pearl streets is next on the D-2 route. That location is near the Farmers Market and the new East Quarter development area.
The subway would return to the surface under the I-345 elevated freeway at the edge of Deep Ellum and re-connect with existing rail near a relocated Deep Ellum station at Live Oak Street. That spot is adjacent to the Epic Development where Uber has planned a large Dallas office.
Dallas City Council members insisted two years ago on the more expensive subway instead of a second surface level light rail transit line to avoid disruption to Downtown areas on the path.
But Tuesday, members wanted reassurance that D-2 money would be available.
“We’ve got a $1.4 billion project. What do we have in the bank now?” city council member Tennell Atkins asked.
None of the money is in the bank.
DART President Gary Thomas said DART was counting on federal government grants for half of the cost, and DART intended to borrow the rest.
“Hopefully we’ll receive the federal grant as anticipated. That’s what we’ll be pursuing. That’s what we’ve been pursuing. But we have the capacity if necessary to go a different direction,” Thomas said.
The federal government has maintained infrastructure spending such as transit development, but federal priorities can change.
“How sure are we that we’re actually going to have the money available in these capital improvement grants in the future?” council member Chad West asked.
If the grants dry up, DART could be $300 million short of the borrow capacity necessary to build D-2, but Thomas said he was confident the money could be found from other sources.
“Hopefully we can get the funding sorted out with the feds,” city council transportation committee chairman Lee Kleinman said. “This is extremely important not just for the city of Dallas but for the entire system because we do have quite an Achilles heel on the current transit mall.”
The D-2 design is 10% complete and will reach 20% later this spring. At 30%, DART can seek federal approval for engineering work. The DART timeline calls for D-2 construction approval by the end of 2021 and passenger service by the end of 2024.
At the same time DART is moving forward with the $1.2 billion Silver Line, formerly known as the Cotton Belt Line, for a transit rail connection between Plano and DFW Airport. The Silver Line faces strong opposition from North Dallas neighbors who want the portion of that project that would run behind their homes to be built in a tunnel instead of on the surface.
DART has resisted a Silver Line tunnel as it offers neighbor various other “betterments” like sound walls and low noise tracks.
Under questions from southern Dallas councilman Tennell Atkins about DART’s ability to build D-2 at the same time, Thomas said no other project is holding D-2 back.