Neighbors and property owners are boosting pressure to make a second Downtown Dallas DART rail line entirely below ground instead of partially below ground as currently proposed.
Several meetings this week could advance the subway campaign.
“The downtown owners have sort of woken up and said we can’t allow this, we’ve got to do this right,” said Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston who represents Downtown Dallas.
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DART last year proposed a surface route along Young Street that would have taken property from the First Presbyterian Church. A compromise Jackson Street route was offered, and the Dallas City Council voted to make Jackson Street the preferred route.
Kingston voted against it, favoring a subway route all along.
“DART has agreed for years that that is exactly what they are going to do in Downtown Dallas. They owe us a subway and they are trying to welch out on their deal,” Kingston said.
Spokesman Morgan Lyons said DART hopes to have the new line operating by 2021 when high speed rail from Houston is expected to arrive in Downtown Dallas, but the D2 route is only 5-percent designed.
“We’re working with a wide mark and we’re working with pencils,” Lyons said.
The agency claims entirely underground construction could cost $500 million more and could delay completion as much as 10 years with additional federal review.
“We just don’t feel it’s justified right now,” Lyons said. “We haven’t ruled anything out.”
In recent public meetings, DART offered a new Young Street design that keeps trains entirely in the existing street and takes no First Presbyterian Church property. But it still reduces access to the existing church parking garage and puts a rail line between the main church building and other parts of the campus across the street.
Property owners along the Jackson Street route were opposed all along saying trains on that narrow street would ruin redevelopment efforts of older buildings there.
Kingston said subway construction would eliminate expensive right of way purchase expenses and produce a better product for Dallas in the long run that does not divide neighborhoods.
“This is one of those key features of developing downtown where the good really is the enemy of the perfect. And we can have the perfect in this situation if we simply focus our political will,” Kingston said.
A coalition that supports subway construction planned a meeting for Tuesday night.
DART has two public meetings set for Wednesday to share the latest plans and receive input.
The DART meetings are scheduled for 12 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at The Scottish Rite Temple, 500 South Harwood Street, along the Young Street route.