Neighbors fear their land may be taken along Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Silver Line rail project.
DART acquired the old Cotton Belt tracks years ago and broke ground in September for Silver Line service between Plano and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. But design is only 10% complete and officials confirm more property may be needed.
“There are actually 72 properties that we’ve identified and the bulk of those, over 55 of them, are actually partial, small slivers of land and the corner of someone’s property,” DART spokesman Gordon Shattles said.
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Dane Cofer owns a home right beside the tracks in North Dallas. He assembled maps to keep track of the plans that changed over the years, including the possible use of eminent domain to take property.
“It has been a roller coaster,” he said. “We don’t know which pieces, how much of which pieces, where they’re going to be, what they’re going to serve, anything like that.”
Cofer insists it would be less expensive and much safer to tunnel a path for the train through the North Dallas residential areas. Other North Dallas critics of the Silver Line project have made the same claim about a tunnel.
“It would be cheaper if you look at it from the lifespan of the project,” Cofer said.
He compared the City of Dallas Mill Creek drainage tunnel project cost and found DART estimates a much higher cost for a similar tunnel.
DART did construct a rail tunnel years ago for the original light rail line that goes beneath City Place in Uptown Dallas.
Shattles said DART did a thorough review of the tunnel option years ago.
“It was easily double the price,” Shattles said.
Part of the additional cost was for even more land to build pump stations to remove water and exhaust from a North Dallas rail tunnel.
North Dallas City Council Member Lee Kleinman is the Council’s Transportation Committee Chairman.
“It is cost prohibitive in my view,” Kleinman said. “The maintenance and operations on the tunnel are just much, much higher. And we’re so past that.”
Dallas City Council members did recently insist on Silver Line design changes that DART delivered this week to remove elevated bridges.
The new plan depresses Hillcrest Road under the rail tracks and depresses rail under a Coit Road overpass.
“I think this is a material improvement over what they had proposed,” Kleinman said.
The new plan shows the Coit Road overpass would still be elevated 12 feet above the existing road height. Cofer claims that it violates a 2018 Dallas City Council resolution that called for no structures above current elevations.
Kleinman said there are some additional details to negotiate with DART but in general he is pleased with the Silver Line project. He said it will improve mobility and provide an economic boost to the area.
“This is good for Dallas and I’ve been in support of this project from the beginning,” Kleinman said.
Cofer said he and other neighbors will keep watching the evolving plans.
Eminent domain taking of land requires a determination of fair market value and city approval.
DART’s goal is revenue service on the Silver Line in 2022.