DART Meeting Shows Division Between D2 and Cotton Belt

“So a guy walks into a bar downtown and asks, ‘Where’s the closest subway station?’ ‘Sorry buddy, the closest thing you’ll find to a subway here is a Quiznos,’” the bartender replies. That’s how Amanda Austin, downtown resident and owner of Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum, started her comments regarding the D2 subway line to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board of directors at their public meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting primarily consisted of members of the public entreating the board to vote "yay, nay or delay" a new 20-year financial plan. The plan, to be voted on on the 27th, would determine which DART projects will be prioritized and how they will be funded.

Dallas City Councilwoman Sandy Greyson made an appearance at the meeting, asking the board to delay the passing of the financial plan “until you get all of your questions answered.”

“I heard a comment today which bothered me which was perhaps the downtown subway is a want and not a need,” Greyson said. “You will see a resolution coming from the city council in the next two weeks saying our two priorities are the downtown subway and improved bus service.”

The meeting revealed how the D2 line and the Cotton Belt line are being pitted against each other for funding, despite the fact there appears to be money for both. Former Mayor Pro Tem of Addison Blake Clemens announced that if vote was a negative, delaying the Cotton Belt rail yet again, he would be “a major cheerleader to pull Addison out of DART.”

The city has paid a lot of money to DART with the expectation the line would be built. 

“We do want the Cotton Belt and hope it moves forward, but I want to make sure it’s perfectly clear that there are a lot of frustrated Addison folks,” said Clemens. “So this is not just me. I encourage you to vote yes.”

DART has also applied for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, asking the federal government for $325 million (50 percent of the planned cost of D2). But if federal transit authorities decide not to give the grant, the D2 subway could be delayed for years.

The new financial plan assumes the Cotton Belt would be built entirely, with one plan leaving an underground D2 line threatened if additional financing isn’t attained

There is no option with D2 as a subway.

“We were led to believe that DART wouldn't ask its Board to vote on the 20-Year Plan until President Thomas briefed the Dallas City Council and provided them with an update,” wrote Jessica Burnham, executive director of the Deep Ellum Foundation, in an email. “That appears not to be the case. If the Cotton Belt is prioritized, DART could tell Dallas that it only has enough resources to build a D2 surface line. We can't let that happen.”

Most of the commenters at the meeting would agree. The crowd was made up of green-shirt-wearing Deep Ellum folks, with the rallying cry of #CanYouDigIt.

“I’m here today to support a D2 subway alignment. This is a hundred-year decision to be made by DART,” said Bryce Weigand, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. “For political reasons we now have a surface line in downtown Dallas. Indeed, D2 is firmly linked to the entire success of the light rail system. To confuse the Cotton Belt funding with D2 funding is unfounded and unwise. The D2 line must take precedence, otherwise the lines are all for naught. DART board, join the realm of truly world-class cities.”

Even those outside of the downtown community shared their concerns about the fast-approaching decision. 

"To Addison, we hear you, but neighborhood-sensitive solutions haven't happened," said one member of the Cotton Belt Concerned Citizens Coalition. "Our collective concern is the accelerated plan, if approved, will result in a compromised Cotton Belt."
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