Dallas City Council Chooses Jackson Route for Second Downtown Rail Line

If the city gets its way, the second light rail line through downtown will traverse what's become known as the Jackson Street alternative.

With DART facing a deadline for applying for a federal grant it says is essential to the project, the Dallas City Council voted 13-1 Wednesday to endorse a path for the rail line that will head south on Lamar Street from Victory Station before heading east on Young Street. Previous versions of the approved alignment, known as B4, would've continued on Young Street into Deep Ellum, but the council version hops onto Jackson Street as it approaches City Hall.

The recently devised Alternative B4 helps avoid what had been a brewing conflict between DART and stakeholders in the Farmers Market area in southeast downtown. Residents of recently built townhouses were worried that their homes might be endangered if the new line continued to traverse Young Street, having had their fears stoked when DART President Gary Thomas refused to rule out the demolition of existing businesses or homes in late August.

Thomas said at the time that the micro-level concerns of property owners adjacent to the new line had to be balanced with the macro-level concerns of all of North Texas, according to attendees of a meeting of the Greater Dallas Planning Council and Urban Land Institute.

Thomas wanted the city to approve both versions of B4, a plan that went out the window when the council's transportation committee opted to move forward with only the route that bypasses the Farmers Market. Now, the full council has ratified that decision.

Council member Philip Kingston, who represents much of downtown, was the only vote against the Jackson alternative. Kingston has two issues with the approved plan. First, he's always been a proponent of the second downtown rail line being a subway — that way it would avoid many of the issues encountered by downtown's existing rail system, such as bottlenecked trains and traffic signals. Kingston also maintains that businesses that would be affected by trains on Jackson Street, like the Continental apartments and the still-in-development Statler Hilton redo, haven't been given enough time to vet the new route.

"This is the time to pursue the grant, to pursue the money," Lee Kleinman said, echoing DART's claims that it has its best shot to fund the nearly $500 million project if it applies for a federal core capacity grant this fall.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said more planning could be done later, but the money is needed now.

"We need to go get that money, Mr. Thomas. We are being unified here to get the money," Rawlings said.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young