Let Countdown Begin, As DART's Set to Award Streetcar System Planning Study Contract

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The Dallas City Council and Dallas Area Rapid Transit board will hold a joint meeting this morning during which they'll discuss, among other things, DART's long-term expansion plans, the planned Blue Line extension to the University of North Texas at Dallas campus and that second downtown light-rail line that's been put on indefinite hold. Among the reasons for D2's delay: the sales-tax shortfall and the streetcar line that's supposed to run from Union Station to near Methodist Hospital.

Just last week, when formally signing the docs giving Dallas the $23 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery funds, federal transpo authorities yet again gushed over the day when Dallas gets its streetcars. But there's still much work to be done before they can begin laying track. Top of the to-do list: hiring a Dallas Streetcar System Planning Study Consultant, which DART should do tomorrow. According to its meeting agenda, DART will welcome aboard HDR Engineering, Inc., which was hired by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority to study that city's plans to expand its current streetcar system and awarded a contract last summer to conduct the Toronto Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study.

HDR was one of six firms that submitted bids for the project, and the contract's for $351,536 -- which is coming out of the city of Dallas's pocket as part of the North Central Texas Council of Government Regional Transit Council's $10-million grant funded last summer with Regional Tollroad Revenue. Says the resolution approving HDR's hire, the city transferred $400,000 to DART last month, with the other $49,000 having been set aside for DART staff time and expenses."

The deal gives HDR one year to finish its study. Mark Ball, DART spokesman, tells Unfair Park that is the board signs off tomorrow, "it would take approximately two weeks to put in place. Best estimate for the one-year contract to begin would be mid- to late February." He refers further questions about time lines to Keith Manoy, the city's senior transportation planner and the point man for all things streetcar. Messages have been left. I'll see if he can get us the latest map in advance of this week's town hall.

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