Oak Cliff Streetcar Poised to Get $30 Million, Connect to Convention Center and Bishop Arts

When Jason Roberts and his crew at the Oak Cliff Transit Authority first began trying to fund a streetcar line connect downtown with Oak Cliff, they asked the feds for around $48 million. They got only half of that. They've scraped together a bit more funding from various sources, but not enough to extend the line past Methodist Hospital, which is still nearly a mile from Bishop Arts.

The North Central Texas Council of Government's Regional Transportation Council will vote Thursday on whether to allocate an additional $30.87 million to the project. That money has been sitting in the RTC's coffers since 2004, when it was set aside for a connection between downtown DART's Green Line and Love Field.

According to RTC briefing documents, the money will be doled out in three stages. The first $8 million will go to purchase two streetcars. The second $12.87 million chunk will fund the extension to the intersection of Zang Boulevard and Davis Street. The remainder will be used for a link to the Convention Center Hotel.

Roberts was rather delighted with the news.

"That will basically complete the last part of the funding we wanted," he said.

There were times after the initial infusion of funding when he and others questioned the wisdom of building a streetcar that stopped well short of its intended -- or really any -- destination. But then he talked to planners in Portland who had overseen the streetcar project there.

"'The key is to get a stake in the ground and you will see as time progresses more funds will materialize,'" he remembers them telling him.

Which is exactly what happened. I have messages out to Keith Manoy, the city's streetcar guru, and the RTC and will update when I hear back.

Update at 1:36 p.m.: Tom Shelton, a senior program manager with NCTCOG, said the funding became available once it became clear that the Love Field connector, which was envisioned as a way to move people from the DART station to the airport terminal, was going nowhere.

Shelton and others with the council approached the city to suggest they put the money toward streetcars.

"It's fair to say the city of Dallas' priorities have changed," he said. "They have a real commitment to a streetcar network and system."

The extension will add another 0.7 miles or so to the line but, more important, will bring it close to Bishop Arts which "really makes this a much better project," Shelton said.

As an added benefit, the extension can be completed using the contractor that is working on the project's first phase, thereby avoiding another time-consuming round of bidding, which would take months.

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