Today the Regional Transportation Council of the North Central Texas Council of Governments met with the local citizenry at a public meeting at the pleasantly named Center for Community Cooperation on Live Oak. Much of the conversation picked up where Robert's chat with Dallas Area Rapid Transit spokesman Morgan Lyons left off, after Lyons said DART sure would like to move forward with the 62-mile Cotton Belt Regional Corridor train project as quickly as possible ... should funding ever become available.
DART's own wallet is quite thin, too thin to begin financing the train project, which would potentially run through Dallas, Collin County and Tarrant Counties, according to Tom Shelton of NCTCOG, who spoke at today's public meeting. Shelton said DART could not commit to funding until 2035. Nevertheless, he insisted: "The overall effort in the region is to make the project occur sooner rather than later." He also stressed the importance of remaining smart about capital funding and long-term funding and sourcing it in non-traditional ways, such as public-private partnerships, an enhanced smart card system, selling off naming rights and working with land developers who would benefit from more streamlined public transportation.
Cotton Belt implementation could cost up to $1.8 billion and involves nearly as much negotiation as funding. Shelton pointed our that "partnership" is a key word -- the rail project involves negotiations with DART, the Fort Worth Transit Authority, as well as other area railroad and land-holding bodies. So, while transportation inforgraphics with their vibrant hopeful lines make our heart swoon, perhaps our dream for future transit will seem more or less real when NCTCOG releases its final report on the project sometime around September.
Citing the 2010 census, Shelton said projections indicate that people will continue moving to northeast Texas in droves -- and, hence, will clog our highways more than they already are.
Even with the Cotton Belt project -- not to mention the myriad other transportation projects discussed at the public meeting, including the Regional Outer Loop highway system that would circle DFW and the long-term general transportation plan known as Mobility 2035 -- there is no way our area could become vehicularly decongested in the foreseeable future. Improved, yes, but not cured.
"Our regional transportation needs far exceed our ability to pay for them," said Elizabeth Whitaker, also of the NCTCOG. A complete cure for our traffic woes would take billions more than even what is hypothetically available for these huge public projects. But then what excuse would we have for being late, anyway?
At the conclusion of today's meeting about these massive seemingly dream-fulfilling projects, Michael Morris of the NCTCOG joked with the crowd that the stock market is doing great, adding, "It's 68 degrees outside ... and your family loves you."
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Today's handouts are below. I took some notes for you.