DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – They’ve been gone from Dallas for generations. But streetcars are poised to make a comeback. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in Oak Cliff on Friday near one of the scheduled new streetcar stops.

Luis Salcedo is dubbed “the godfather of the streetcar.” He looked on proudly as local dignitaries turned the ceremonial soil on a project he and his engineering firm have worked on for free since 2006: streetcars connecting downtown to Oak Cliff.

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“These are going to be modern streetcars, so they’ll be air conditioned, ADA compatible,” says Salcedo. “And groundbreaking in another way, since the cars can switch to battery power on the part crossing the Houston Street Viaduct and won’t require overhead power lines. “Coming across the bridge there’s no utilities; you only have to put in the track. So that cut a lot of the cost that’s usually associated with a streetcar — out.”

It’s a joint project with city, Dallas County, the North Central Texas Council of Government, federal agencies and DART. The 1.6 mile line will start at the beautiful but under-utilized Union Station, and cross into Oak Cliff. The first phase ends near Methodist Central Hospital. The next phase will go to the Bishop Arts District, which pleases Oak Cliff resident Bob Stimson.

“First of all it’s huge for Oak Cliff. Because it makes a permanent connection with downtown and the Convention Center and the most vibrant area of the Bishop Arts area,” he says. And Stimson feels it will provide an easy way to work for residents going to downtown jobs. “I think there will be people that actually give up their cars and use this.”

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The second phase will end at Zang and Davis. There are hopes it will spark revitalization there. The possibility of increased foot traffic excites Melvin Gonzalez. He just opened a religious supplies store named Botanica. “It can be great,” he says, “It’s going to be more traffic, and that’s great for any type of business.”

The $80-million dollar project is funded mostly with federal tax dollars. Phase one is set to open in October of next year, phase two a couple of months later.

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