Monday, February 24, 2014

Dallas officials: Oak Cliff streetcar just the start

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Dallas city officials continue to stress the establishment of the Oak Cliff streetcar line is just the first step in growing streetcar routes throughout the city, in part to complement existing DART light rail transit operations.

Critics of DART, both pro-rail and anti-rail in nature, have questioned DART's current emphasis on connecting city center to suburban locales at the expense of intracity movement.

DART officials, for their part, have acknowledged for some time that more service within the downtown sector is desirable. Last summer DART committed $50 million to replace 1.25 miles of light rail transit track this year on Pacific Ave. and Bryan Street in downtown Dallas. DART cited rapid deterioration of the rail as the prime reason, exacerbated in part by the right-of-way's heavy use by riders of all four DART LRT lines.

Funding remains a factor, and anti-rail voices have railed against the $51 million, two-mile streetcar project linking Dallas Union Station with the Oak Cliff neighborhood, despite strong efforts by that neighborhood itself to put the project into play. Now backed by the city and by DART, planners see the line as just the first step to a wider streetcar system.

"We figured if we could get that piece in, it would be a little easier to get the other pieces in," Keith Manoy, an assistant public works director for the city, told local media.

For their part, DART officials have told Railway Age that while the agency may not lead the charge in any streetcar resurgence, it will do its best to assist any such effort, as it has with the Oak Cliff streetcar project, due to open for service in 2015.

Proposals include extending streetcar service through the center of downtown Dallas, alleviating DART LRT congestion there, and linking with the existing McKinney Avenue trolley, a heritage operation.

Last year Brookville Equipment Corp. won a $9.4 million contract to provide two modern streetcars for the Oak Cliff streetcar project.