DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The biggest light rail system in the nation gave the go-ahead to two major projects at a packed board meeting on Tuesday night. Leaders with Dallas Area Rapid Transit decided to move forward with two expansion jobs at the same time, each expected to cost about $1 billion.READ MORE: Jake Ellzey Defeats Susan Wright In Runoff Special Election For Texas' 6th Congressional District Seat
DART will soon begin work on both the Cotton Belt and a new subway line. The Cotton Belt project looks to connect cities like Plano, Richardson, Addison and Carrollton to DFW International Airport, while the subway line project adds another option for people in and around the downtown Dallas area.
The Cotton Belt tracks have been in place for decades, but are not currently in use. Many residents in Addison are eager to see a light rail come to their city, where buses have been the only DART service available. “That definitely would save me time in the morning,” said Addison commuter Michelle Rodriguez. “I wake up very, very early just to get out here, and I’d get an extra hour or two of sleep.”
“I’d definitely catch that other than relying on people, catching a cab or something like that,” added Addison commuter Omo Toyosi. “I think it would be more affordable riding the train down to the airport.”
“I think underground would be great. That’s the next step,” said Dallas commuter Zachary Territo. “Chicago, New York, that’s what they do. Having been up there, most of their stuff is underground.”
If all goes according to plan, both of the projects should be completed in less than 10 years. “We don’t believe it needs to be an either/or,” DART spokesman Morgan Lyons explained earlier this year. “They are totally separate projects. We believe we can actually do two separate projects at one time.”
DART has argued for months that speeding up both projects would be a major cost savings to the system. But that also fueled concerns among Dallas city leaders who believe that the downtown subway line should be the priority. City councilman Phillip Kingston told the board that, if DART uses cash to do both projects concurrently, it would increase the cost of borrowing and debt.
However, without any discussion on Tuesday night, the DART board voted to green light its 20-year financial plan on both of the projects at the same time. One of the concerns from critics about this move is that the funding depends on a commitment from the federal government. Some community members are concerned that a potential loss of these federal funds could wind up delaying the completion of both projects.MORE NEWS: Teen Dies In High-Speed Crash In Carrollton
DART is about a year away from securing the federal funding, but there is still plenty of time. The roadmap approved Tuesday night includes only about five percent of the design work. “Still a lot of work to do, a lot of engineering work to do,” said Lyons on Wednesday.