On Monday the city council's Transportation and Environment Committee will devote its entire meeting to the subject of streetcars. In fact, there's a field trip involved, as council members will bus out to Dallas Area Rapid Transit's Northwest Rail Operating Facility to once again get a good look at that Kinkisharyo ameriTRAM streetcar that toured downtown last month. And after that they'll head from Union Station to near Methodist Hospital, getting a sneak peek at the planned alignment.
But first, council will preview an item about to be added to the council's Wednesday meeting agenda: an inter-local agreement with the North Central Texas Council of Governments and DART, which will spell out who's in control of what on this $35-million project. Long story short: The NCTCOG will "own" the streetcar project (since it filed the application for that federal TIGER grant ultimately worth $23 million), which will ultimately be handed back to the city. DART's acting as the project's technical adviser.
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Council's also going to set up a fund that will allow the city's transpo staff to take care of operations and maintenance issues. The TIGER grant, which is loaded with must-do's, specifies that there needs to be a 30-year guarantee that the city can handle O&M. As you may recall, a few weeks back the city asked DART to move $17 million from the Green Line-to-Love Field connector project and put it toward the streetcar project. That money, says Keith Manoy, the city's chief transportation planner, will go into that trust, along with other funds that come available.
"DART's $17 million is a backstop for O&M," he tells Unfair Park this morning, adding that other money may come from the NCTCOG or even private investment. "We don't have specific sources, but the fund is something we need to set up now."
As of this very moment, construction on the project is scheduled to begin "around" August 2012, and it has to be up and running by December 2013 per TIGER grant stipulations about revenue service. To expedite construction, everyone's hoping to go with a battery-operated car like the one the council will tour again on Monday -- one that doesn't need an overhead contact system.
"On the historic Houston bridge, the plan is not to have an OCS, an this will allow us to do it -- this or a car like it," Manoy says, insisting the city and DART and the COG haven't yet decided which streetcar to go with. "That's the kind of technology we'll be seeking, since, because it's a historic bridge, to do any more would require" dealing with the Texas Historical Commission.