Wheels finally rolled Thursday on the final leg of the original DART light rail plan from the 1980s. People involved with the long-awaited Blue Line extension to the University of North Texas at Dallas celebrated with picture taking and a luncheon.
A test train arrived at about 11:30 a.m. at the new UNT Dallas station on University Hills Boulevard north of Interstate 20. It carried dignitaries who promised the project to neighbors for many years.
"We began planning for this years ago and we put the resources in that were necessary to make certain it was efficiently done and that it would serve the entire Metroplex," said State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. "I'm proud of DART for doing what they've done."
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Unlike other sections of the 93-mile DART light rail system where transit helped relieve existing traffic, this extension is intended to support new development.
The new end-of-the-line UNT Dallas station is surrounded by vacant land where the campus and related development are expected to grow up around it.
West said a dormitory, an amphitheater and a third academic building are coming soon at the UNT Dallas campus.
"A lot of things are working right because Dallas is a city that likes to do business," West said.
A new Camp Wisdom Road station has new homes nearby, but plenty of vacant land for more.
Former Dallas City Council Member Tennell Atkins was one of the passengers on the first train Thursday. Atkins represented the area for eight years and supported plans at City Hall for transit related development around the Blue Line extension.
"This area's going to grow. Now we need the hotels, the office buildings, the upper middle class housing. It's going to come," Atkins said.
Thursday's first train was a slow trial run with DART people walking beside the train to be sure equipment operated properly. DART President Gary Thomas said the test went smoothly.
"It's been a lot of fun to see the excitement in this particular community as we move forward," Thomas said. "The challenge now is, everybody says, 'That's great, but what's next? How are you going to connect my community, my region?'"
The Blue Line extension passenger service begins Oct. 24.