Get Rail: DART President to Testify Before U.S. Senate Tomorrow Concerning "New Starts"

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DART president Gary Thomas
Tomorrow, Dallas Area Rapid Transit president and exec director Gary Thomas will be in Washington, D.C., to talk -- what else? -- transportation. Specifically, he's been invited to appear before a U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs subcommittee, chaired by Chris Dodd, to address the Federal Transit Administration's so-called New Starts program, which is how DART partially funded the $1.8-billion Green Line expansion scheduled to get rolling come fall. And by partially funded, I mean: $700 million.

Says DART spokesman Morgan Lyons, Thomas will actually appear before the subcommittee in two capacities: as DART honcho, and as vice chair of the American Public Transportation Association's rail transit committee. And though Thomas's testimony isn't yet available -- Lyons says he will forward it along when it is -- the spokesman does provide a sneak preview of what Thomas is expected to discuss: asking the feds for less interference from D.C. and more reliance on the local and regional FTA offices, and some more green to help fund the second downtown Dallas alignment.

"We'd like to see them come up with maybe more pilot projects, something to help us get more creative with the second downtown alignment," Lyons tells Unfair Park. "And we'd like more oversight from the regional and local FTA offices and not as much reliance on the D.C. office. Those guys in Washington have to pay attention to everyone, but we have relationship with the local FTA  guys. After all, they use the system and have a better idea of what the regional needs are, but they still have to run everything past D.C.

Incidentally, regarding that second downtown alignment -- which is still being discussed and then some -- Lyons expects the board will receive a recommended route "before the end of the summer." The cost will be determined by the alignment chosen, and it will be locally funded, for now, "but we'd like to get some federal funds."

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