How At-Risk is Second Downtown Light Rail Alignment Given DART's Shortfall?

One of the projects most threatened by Dallas Area Rapid Transit's sales-tax receipt shortfall, announced yesterday, is the second downtown light-rail alignment -- the so-called D2 that's been under consideration since at last the fall of 2007 and which, in January 2008, the Dallas City Council demanded move forward despite a billion-dollar budget shortfall revealed weeks earlier. The council's also made it very, very, very clear: It favors the most expensive (by far) and perhaps least efficient (say some) D2 alignment -- the one that stops at the convention center hotel.

And so I asked DART spokesman Morgan Lyons this morning, via e-mail, exactly how at-risk D2 is given yesterday's bad news. He responds thusly:

D2 will be part of our budget and financial plan review. We'll have our first update to the Board on capital projects in late April.

The short answer is based on the updated sales tax information we don't have enough funding to build and operate everything we had planned beyond the current Green, Orange and Blue projects. The final section of the Orange Line to Terminal A falls into that category too.

It's frustrating to us because we want to build and operate all of these projects. We'd still like to find ways to do that.

Hard choices ahead.
Which, because I know you want to know, brings us to streetcars, which are part of the D2 study.

Per DART's D2 FAQ: "A parallel streetcar study is underway and will be closely coordinated with the D2 Study." Lyons says DART's shortfall shouldn't directly affect the project, recently awarded $23 million in federal funding. Per his e-mail, "The streetcars are to be cost-neutral to us. We would be paid to operate it.

I then asked him: Since the two are linked, "If D2's back-burnered, wouldn't that affect streetcars?"

To which he replied: "Not really. Ideally you want D2 and streetcars as integrated as possible but they're separate projects. In any case it's still possible make that happen even if the schedule changes."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky