Wednesday, June 19, 2024 Jun 19, 2024
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Dallas fights elevated rail through downtown.

In March, the Dallas City Council learned that the region’s transportation authority was pursuing a plan to connect Dallas, Arlington, and Fort Worth via an elevated high-speed rail through downtown, near the convention center. Hunt Realty, which is planning a $5 billion mixed-use project on its 25 empty acres near Reunion Tower, quickly went to work lobbying councilmembers to build a consensus against the plans. “It’s going to physically sever the new convention center from our site, and it will physically prevent new development happening on our site,” Hunt Realty CEO Colin Fitzgibbons told me then.

Now Councilmember Tennell Atkins, the mayor pro tem and chair of the Economic Development Committee, has presented a resolution that “does not support construction of any aboveground rail lines through the downtown, Uptown, and Victory Park areas of Dallas.” The full body will vote on the resolution during Wednesday’s meeting, after Mayor Eric Johnson formally requested that it be placed on the agenda.

The only carve-out is for streetcar expansion projects, which could link the existing Oak Cliff and Uptown lines through downtown. The resolution calls for a “revisit” of the Dallas-to-Fort Worth high-speed rail line after receiving an economic impact study that was requested during the March meeting.

It sets the stage for a battle between the region’s largest city, its neighbors, and the regional authority that pursues federal and state dollars for North Texas transportation projects. At the center of the debate is the long-planned Houston and Dallas high-speed rail line, which seemed all but dead until Amtrak stepped in.

The Council seems thrilled at shooting high-speed rail down south, a project that has escalated to the highest levels of government. Building a bullet train line between the two cities is part of official discussions between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has given the United States permission to use Shinkansen technology for the high-speed rail trains.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments also wants a stub over to Fort Worth, which, it says, will tie into an eventual network of high-speed rail routes across the country. But a cross-country rail system lies so far in the future that it is difficult to see even when squinting; at least some councilmembers want to protect the planned investments coming to this corner of downtown from being bisected with an elevated rail line.

“[M]any large projects are underway in the city and, except for streetcar expansion projects currently under consideration, City Council is prioritizing redevelopment of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and the needs of Fair Park and other historically significant parks and residential neighborhoods ahead of any construction of new aboveground rail lines through the Downtown, Uptown, and Victory Park areas of Dallas,” reads the resolution.

We’ll see Wednesday whether a majority feel the same way.