Bullet Train Station Sites Are a Bullet in the Head for South Dallas

So sad. Pathetic. Last Friday the bullet train people announced their two preferred sites for a station in Dallas, and none of the elected southern Dallas leadership seems even to have noticed that they just got screwed.

See also: Sites Selected for Potential Dallas-to-Houston Bullet Train Station

In fact, southern Dallas just got screwed out of what could have been its biggest economic boon since it screwed itself out of Richard Allen's Inland Port deal.

Two Southern Dallas council members, Tennell Atkins and Carolyn Davis, didn't even see the pot get swept off the poker table Friday (Hey, wasn't there a big pile of chips there a minute ago?) when the Texas Central High-Speed Railway said it had reduced its list of potential station sites for the northern terminus of the bullet train they claim they're going to build between Houston and Dallas.

Before Friday's announcement, the bullet train people were looking at sites in Davis' and Atkins' districts, one at the intersection of Interstate 45 and I-20 at the city's southern border, the other midway between the southern city limits and downtown at I-45 and Ledbetter Drive.

Instead, the company announced Friday it has moved its gaze all the way north to downtown and will now consider only two sites bordering the southwest corner of downtown. Umm ... sorry, but I can't resist sticking in a little parenthetical here: I did say just after Christmas that the Trinity toll road and a host of other plans afoot are all designed to create a transit and entertainment hub around the vast square-footage owned in that part of town by the owners of The Dallas Morning News.

OK, it's a big parenthetical. Brandon Formby, the transportation writer at the News, has the integrity to include a paragraph somewhere down deep in all these stories reminding readers that the News properties are in play in all this. In his most recent piece he said, "When DART unveiled its plans last year, they included renderings that identified two landmark media buildings between Union Station and the proposed bullet train station as ripe for redevelopment."

Yeah -- that would be the News, WFAA TV and a Mojave Desert's worth of parking they own. There's all kinds of talk now about that land being the locus for a casino, ballpark, hotels and other developments pegged to the convention center. I am convinced the landowners there think they need the toll road to get big event crowds in and out of that corner of downtown, and they may be right. Otherwise, that corner is in a kind of a headlock at the very epicenter of the Mixmaster freeway exchanges. I think that's why they want a new freeway.

It would be nice if they would admit it. For all I know, they might be able to sell voters on it. Not me, but, you know. Real people. What the hell? Try telling the truth for a change.

But back to the bullet train: Why would the bullet train people have considered station sites so much farther south than downtown? Because the damn station will eat up a ton of land and there's a lot more room for it and way cheaper land to the south.

It would have been an enormous catalyst. It's appalling that neither council member Davis nor Atkins ever saw it on the table, said a word, lifted a finger, or even noticed that it just got snatched from them. And what about council member Vonciel Hill? She spends all her time and energy campaigning for the toll road, the rich people's road, but not a word from her when a chance like this comes along for her own part of town.

People ask what can be done to boost southern Dallas. Nothing, until southern Dallas gets smarter, more business-savvy people on the council to defend its interests.

Mayor GrowSouth was absolutely effusive Friday about the real estate development potential of a station at the southwest corner of downtown. "I am excited about high-speed rail moving ahead," Rawlings said. "Both options have the possibility of serving as catalysts for tremendous growth in the city, and I am extremely interested in seeing a deck over Interstate 30, bridging these two vibrant areas of our city and further enhancing what could be an iconic addition to the city of Dallas."

Richard Lawless, CEO of the bullet train company, said, "As we have seen in other cities around the world, the high-speed rail stations will become the focal point of development that provides connectivity to other forms of transportation. Either of these locations will allow for a high-speed rail station location and design that will become iconic to the Dallas skyline."

Sure. All of that could have happened in southern Dallas. Maybe. But here's a caveat. Richard Allen, CEO of the Allen group, once told me that when he first looked at southern Dallas and saw how cheap the land was, he should have asked himself why it was so cheap.

As we all saw subsequently in the whole dreary debacle around the "Inland Port," a huge rail, trucking and warehousing development, one reason the land was so cheap was that doing business in southern Dallas was so extremely difficult. By putting its hand out and demanding a toll of anybody who tries to come in from the outside, southern Dallas manages to run off a whole lot of investment.

If the bullet train people looked at the Inland Port mess and decided they'd rather avoid the whole area even if the land was cheaper there, one could hardly blame them. I just want to make sure we all stop, look and think about what this station decision says about the so-called "Grow South" initiative.

It's, "Grow South, unless you've got something really good. Then it's No South." Was there ever any way to make it otherwise?

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