Proposed high-speed rail line could bypass downtown Dallas amid City Council opposition

A proposed North Texas high-speed rail line could bypass downtown Dallas on its way to Fort Worth after city leaders questioned its impact on a planned new $3 billion convention center and a nearby $5 billion redevelopment project.

The Regional Transport Councila group of elected and appointed officials who oversee North Texas transit policy and planning, will discuss the new possible route during a meeting Thursday.

A new concept was sent to the 45-member transport council on 28 June and obtained by Dallas Morning News shows the railroad running behind the redevelopment project and over Interstate 35E on its way to Arlington and Fort Worth.

Proposed routes will be shown to members of the Dallas City Council in March had the sky rail line between the new convention center and the redevelopment project. The council voted in June to formally oppose any new above-ground high-speed rail lines through downtown.

A rendering shows one of the preferred routes for a proposed high-speed train from Dallas to Fort Worth that runs through downtown Dallas. (screen shot)

Following the I-30 corridor with stops in Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth, the rail line has been designated as a way to alleviate increased freeway congestion in a metropolitan area of ​​8 million residents that is expected to grow to over 11 million by 2045.

In a June 28 email, Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said staff “intends to present an improved alignment” at Thursday’s meeting. NCTCOG works with local authorities in regional projects. The subject line of the email read “High speed rail concept near downtown to respond to city of Dallas resolution.”

Morris did not respond to requests for comment on the new proposed route. In March, he told council members the project could cost $6 billion, but he said the estimate would be revised after an environmental review is completed next year.

Regional transportation officials have said the Dallas-to-Fort Worth line would carry people from one end to the other in under 30 minutes at a maximum speed of 160 mph.

Another commuter train line, that Trinity Railway Express, already runs between Dallas and Fort Worth. It can take at least an hour to travel from the Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station in downtown Dallas to the downtown Fort Worth T&P station on TRE.

Three members of the Dallas City Council who are part of the Regional Transportation Council told The news that they did not know enough about the proposed new rail line to say whether they supported it.

Councilman Omar Narvaez was concerned about how a road that avoids downtown would affect other ways people could move through the area. He noted that the downtown plan included pedestrian connections such as sky bridges linking to the convention center and Eddie Bernice Johnson Union Station.

“We always talk about connectivity being a goal, and I just don’t know yet if this will get us there,” he said.

Councilman Chad West supported the idea of ​​a high-speed rail link linking Dallas to Fort Worth but said he wanted to hear more about the new proposal.

Dallas’ proposed high-speed rail station near Cadiz Street in the Cedars neighborhood is planned to be seven stories above ground. It is the only option that has received federal approval.

The site is also expected to be the terminus of a separate 150-mile high-speed rail line connecting Dallas to Houston. Amtrak is involved in planning that project, which has not been opposed by the Dallas City Council.

But Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn was skeptical that both high-speed rail lines involving Dallas would come to fruition.

“I am not prepared to agree to any alignment from Dallas to Fort Worth until I have seen a technical analysis from our staff and am confident that the rail line from Dallas to Houston will actually be built,” she said.

It is estimated that the Dallas-to-Houston line would take passengers between the cities in about 90 minutes at speeds in excess of 200 mph. Andy Byford, Amtrak’s senior vice president of high-speed rail development programs, told council members at a March 6 meeting that he estimated the line would cost more than $30 billion.

Officials hope the two bullet train projects will connect.

Concerns about the Dallas-to-Fort Worth project prompted the Dallas City Council to request an economic study in March. Council members said in June they would reconsider their position on the project based on the study’s findings. City officials have said the study won’t begin until October at the earliest and will take at least three months to complete.

Representatives of Hunt Realty Investments, one of downtown Dallas’ largest real estate owners and the group that owns more than 20 acres around the Hyatt Regency Hotel, said The news in March, they believed an elevated railroad would prevent more new development on their property and around the convention center.

Despite calls from Dallas officials to slow the project, other regional leaders have pushed for high-speed rail planning to continue.

Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins, who chairs the Regional Transportation Council, Arlington Mayor Jim Ross and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker are among officials who have publicly supported the project.

“High-speed rail is an integral part of our transportation future, and it will include Tarrant County,” Parker said in a statement last month. She said an economic feasibility study on the impact of high-speed rail should be “a regional decision.”

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