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Spring 2007 This link requires Internet access

  The offical newsletter of Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Propelled by a Vision

Sales Tax for Transit Expansion: 77% of survey respondents say yesIn a historic year when North Texans celebrated the 10th anniversary of one of the nation's youngest and most successful light rail systems, DART and its constituents looked forward more than backward. The agency made great strides in FY 2006, and the kick-off of an ambitious expansion program and the completion of its new 2030 Transit System Plan brought it closer to its ultimate vision for a regional multimodal transit system.

It's a vision first set forth in 1983 when residents voted to tax themselves to build and operate transit services - a commitment nurtured through the years by the city councils, business organizations, planning agencies and citizen groups in 13 member cities. DART has responded by rapidly developing a nationally acclaimed transit network in an auto-bound region - a feat that continues to surprise observers and defy skeptics.

Growing the Green Line
Construction on DART's new Green Line - a 20-station project that by 2010 will extend 27.7 miles from the Pleasant Grove neighborhood in southeast Dallas northwest to the city of Carrollton - began in earnest following the July signing of a $700 million Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The grant was the FTA's second largest, due in no small part to DART's track record of over-matching with local funds and the spirit of cooperation among local, state and national leaders driving the project.

Expansion of DART Rail got the green light on July 3 with the signing of a $700 million Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Congressional members including U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (top), current and former DART Board members, member-city officials and the media gathered at Victory Station to witness DART officials and FTA Deputy Administrator Sandra Bushue (bottom) sign the landmark grant supporting a
21-mile portion of the Green Line now under construction.

"This wasn't easy. Dallas and every single suburb stepped up to the plate to support this," said U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at the grant-signing ceremony. "We wouldn't be here today if the FTA didn't have complete confidence in DART. This is a well-run agency and it has been so since its beginning."

By September, visitors to Deep Ellum and the annual State Fair of Texas could see heavy equipment shaping the new rail line through the Southeast Corridor.

"On a daily basis it can be pretty hectic, but businesses with a long-term vision can see the light at the end of the tunnel," says Barry Annino, president of the Deep Ellum Public Improvement District. "I think the rail line is going to be a bridge that connects us to the rest of the community."

Keeping Southeast Corridor businesses and stakeholders abreast of progress during construction is the mission of DART Community Affairs Representative Willene Watson. "We keep DART connected to the community," she says. "I'm talking and meeting with people every week. It's an ongoing process."

Over the past few years, Watson and Rosa Rosteet, her counterpart in the Green Line's Northwest Corridor, have met hundreds of times with business and residential groups to build consensus on rail alignments and station design, and to allay concerns about construction phases and timelines.

Planning for the Northwest Corridor has included substantial input from the Stemmons Corridor Business Association, the Southwestern Medical District, the cities of Carrollton and Farmers Branch and neighborhood groups. Excitement is building for the rail line that will connect major employment centers in the northwest to neighborhoods in the southeast where residents are expected to outnumber jobs 3 to 1 by 2025.

Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, welcomes the construction. "Light rail service will be a tremendous benefit for our 4,000 students and medical residents, our 20,000 employees, and the more than one million patients who visit our hospitals and clinics annually."

Expectations are also running high along the path of the forthcoming Orange Line - a 14-mile light rail extension that will branch off the Green Line near Bachman Station at Northwest Highway to serve North Irving's thriving Las Colinas Urban Center in 2011 and DFW International Airport in 2013.

"We have more than $3.5 billion in development projects planned, designed and funded in anticipation of DART Rail," says Irving Mayor Herbert A. Gears. "We believe these developments and the connection to the rest of the metroplex will transform our city."

DART Rail Expansion Map

Taking the Long View
Years of research and public meetings culminated in October when the DART Board approved its new 2030 Transit System Plan - a blueprint for the next generation of bus, rail, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and intelligent transportation services.

"The passage of the plan is a good example of the leadership we have in the region and indicative of our ability to work together and implement a vision," says Kay Shelton, project manager for the 2030 Plan.

As the plan demonstrates, the need for transit solutions extends well beyond DART's 700-square-mile service area. In fact, Dallas/Fort Worth's population of 5.9 million is expected to balloon to more than 9 million by 2030.

"We have a dream to create a seamless public transit system through the entire region," says Walt Humann, businessman, civic leader and long-time transit champion. "More than 50% of the residents live outside a transit service area."

DART, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and the Denton County Transportation Authority took a bold step by agreeing to support a proposed exemption of mass transit uses from the state sales tax cap - a proposed change that would enable non-transit cities to conduct local option elections to levy up to a one-cent sales tax for transit expansion. The "Tri-Party Agreement" among the transit agencies has since been endorsed by more than 100 county governments, city councils, chambers of commerce and other entities, as well as by 100 prominent community leaders. As well, 77% of respondents to a University of Texas at Dallas survey said they support the use of sales tax for transit expansion.

If legislative efforts to win the sales tax exemption are successful, Humann predicts North Texas will have a bold, new legacy. "We'll be known as a region that acted with vision, courage and intelligence in developing a public transit system that became the envy of the world."

DART Rail whisks passengers past North Central Expressway traffic.
DART Rail whisks passengers past North Central Expressway traffic.
Fluctuating gas prices prompted more commuters to try transit in 2006.
Fluctuating gas prices prompted more commuters to try transit in 2006.

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