Everything You Ever Needed to Know About the Second Downtown Light Rail Line and Didn't Know Was Available

Late last night I was looking at the agenda for tomorrow's Dallas Area Rapid Transit board meeting when I noticed this: The Planning Committee is scheduled to be briefed on the Alternative Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Dallas Central Business District-D2 Study. First I'd heard about it -- and, late last night, DART spokesman Morgan Lyons confirmed that to date, no one had yet written a word about the 443-page EIS or the accompanying 64 pages' worth of appendices concerning the second light-rail alignment downtown. The only publicly made heads-up: a mention in the Federal Register on April 2, required because, among other reasons, the release of the report triggered a public comment period that ends May 17. So if you've anything to say, now's the time to speak up.

Oh -- right. You'd like to read the report. It's actually on DART's Web site, along with a note about two public hearings scheduled for May 6. I asked Morgan why there'd been no heads-up about the report; he said, in an e-mail sent at 5 this morning, that there was no news release prepared because "people can sign up for meeting notice e-mail alerts to let them know this is going on. We try hard to stay pretty connected to people interested in the issue."

Besides, it's not like D2's going anywhere: The board will just be briefed on the subject, which is chief among the projects stalled by the sales tax receipt shortfall. Says Lyons via e-mail this morning, "Any decision about D2 or any of the capital projects will likely be part of the larger action on the budget and financial plan later this year."

The downtown light-rail alignment favored -- hard -- by the city council is the one that includes the Omni convention center hotel, but it's by far the most expensive of the four remaining options. And there's no money for it. Says the report:

It would be the most expensive alternative ($613 million) with the longest alignment, over a mile of tunnel and three underground stations, including a station within an existing cavern under City Hall. Alternative B4b would not be financially feasible without additional federal funding or other funding sources.

The least expensive option? B4, otherwise known as Lamar-Young. Among the four, it's the one ID'd as having the "greatest TOD potential"; it's the only one considered "feasible"; and it's easily the most cost effective once you factor in likely ridership.

I've asked a few urban designers to weigh in on the report. I will post their comments between now and tomorrow's meeting.

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