Pick a Downtown Light-Rail Route, Any Light-Rail Route. But, See, There's This One ...

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erniemartinez.jpg
Kimberly Thorpe
DART project manager Ernie Martinez took to downtown last night to find out which route residents want.
Last night, Dallas Area Rapid Transit's project manager, Ernie Martinez, stopped by a downtown resident's council meeting at the Old Red Museum to pose a question: He wanted folks who live and work in downtown to tell him which proposed light-rail route they would prefer.

There are four options on the table: All start at Victory Station and connect downtown with Deep Ellum. The D2 light rail alternative can run under Commerce Street; at street level along Young Street; swoop down to stop at City Hall; or, finally, swoop even further south to stop under the proposed convention center hotel and then turn east to City Hall. Guess which one the city wants.

Speaking with Unfair Park after the meeting, Martinez explained how the four choices came about. Last May, Martinez and his group had settled on only two choices -- the first two routes listed above. But after a June stakeholders advisory committee meeting, attended by city officials and property owners, the last two options were added to the list, because city officials and stakeholders who attended said "a connection to the hotel was important."

So Martinez added the last two alternative routes, but now he wants "employers, transit users, and downtown residents," and anybody else to fill out his survey and vote on which route they prefer.

I asked Martinez which line would be the most difficult to construct, and he answered by citing which were the most costly: the Commerce Street line and the convention center hotel line. Why?

Because both lines would be entirely or mostly underground, which is "three to four times" as expensive as building at street level. Plus, the convention center hotel line would require a lot more track since it's a lengthier route. However, Martinez would not say which route he preferred, only that he wanted "whatever the community wants, whatever the elected officials want, whatever works best for the community."

The survey went live Tuesday, says Martinez, who adds that the results will be presented to the DART board in late May or early June, and a final decision is expected to follow in June or July, with a tentative completion date of 2014.
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