Monday, April 26, 2010

Denton County and DART reach accord on rail access

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The Denton County (Tex.) Transportation Authority has reached agreement with Dallas Area Rapid Transit on operating DCTA’s A-train passenger service over a portion of DART-owned rail right-of-way.

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Under the accord, DCTA will have full rights to operate and be responsible for any maintenance and any agreements between the railroad and any adjacent cities for a 20-year period, with one 20-year renewal option, while DART maintains ownership of the route being used. The Denton City Council previously approved the transfer of Denton's piece of the rail corridor north of Swisher Road—the northern portion of the planned service route—to DART. DCTA will maintain the segment.

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The agreement is significant, given the rail modal difference. DART operates electric light rail service, while DCTA plans to utilize diesel multiple-unit (DMU) gear. DART’s Green Line extension to North Carrollton Transit Center, northwest of Dallas, is scheduled to open in December. DCTA service is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2011, with 11 DMU trains produced by Stadler Bussnag AG expected to cover the 21-mile route linking the City of Denton with Trinity Mills Station, within DART’s service area to be reached by the Green Line.

“The plan is to help riders on the DCTA A-Train access the DART Rail Green Line quickly and easily while keeping commuter rail on one track and light rail on another,” DART spokesman Morgan Lyons outlined to Railway Age. “Our Trinity Mills Station will be designed to do that. That’s near the northern terminus of the Green Line and will be the southern terminus for the A-Train. DART customers also benefit with new access to points north of Carrollton, like the University of North Texas in Denton.”

DART's board of directors must still approve the agreement, but Lyons said approval was likely.

Last month, DCTA and the City of Denton and the Denton County Transportation held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Downtown Denton Transit Center and adjacent DCTA Downtown Station, heralding the planned service.

Dee Leggett, DCTA’s vice president of communications and planning, said DCTA and DART had sought agreement since 2006, notwithstanding Denton County’s selection of an alternate rail mode. “DART and DCTA always knew the agreement would happen; it was just finalizing the terms,” Leggett said.

Still to be determined is an operations and maintenance agreement with Trinity Railway Express to operate the A-Train. TRE currently runs commuter rail service linking Dallas and Fort Worth.