North Texas is Angling for a Light Rail Manufacturing Plant (Translation: Jobs!)

Categories: Transportation

Denton rolled out its new, Swiss-made light rail vehicles this summer.
When the Denton County Transportation Authority was shopping for rail cars for its A-train commuter line in 2009, it settled on 11 diesel-electric vehicles manufactured in Europe by Stadler, a company based in Switzerland. The cars are quieter, more fuel efficient and more spacious than the light rail cars on a typical commuter line.

"It's built to an amazingly sophisticated crash-worthiness capacity," said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. "It's a vehicle I think will have a lot of national and international interest."

That said, Morris would just as soon have the vehicles built here than on the other side of the Atlantic. And with a projected need for dozens of new street cars and light rail vehicles in the region in the not-too-distant future (think of projects like the Cotton Belt), Morris thinks that can happen.

The idea is pretty simple. If local transit agencies can come up with a large enough pool of money, and if they can trigger the "Buy American" clause that applies to the expenditure of federal funds, then they can convince a company like Stadler to build a vehicle manufacturing plant somewhere in North Texas. The magic number is about $200 million, or roughly 40 vehicles, something Morris thinks the region can easily achieve.

First, though, everyone has to be on the same page. Morris said the Regional Transportation Council is in discussions with the governor's office and the secretary of state and is close to getting the state's commitment to chip in some of its transit funds. He's hoping local agencies like DART, DCTA, and The T will also come on board. And it's all happening pretty quickly.

"We hope to issue a purchase request this fall," Morris said.

At which point a manufacturer will (theoretically, anyway) set up shop in DFW, pour a lot of money into the local economy, create a lot of jobs, and offer cheaper transit vehicles. Three birds, one stone.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

These developments bring to light the usual underlying issues.


The group of related projects are made possible by private investment in rail. The private investment in rail is spurred along by the ability to be first in on aligning real estate development. 


This brings up the issue of crony capitalism where the 'billionaires' are reaching for whatever federal assistance they can get for these projects in order to line their own pockets. Another issue is the fact that new manufacturing projects in this country almost always occur in the non union south (Caterpillar, GE projects in Texas, automobile manufacturing in the Southeastern US). 


Another issue is that the government is less able to dictate rail development into low income areas due to the private funding nature of the development.


The other side can point to the fact that these projects, that are made possible by these funding/manufacturing arrangements, are necessary in allowing the region to remain economically competitive both nationally and internationally.


This is great. I hope they do it. These will be the type of jobs that provide a real life to people (as opposed to things like call centers and new fast food franchises).

holmantx topcommenter

We already have a plant at 2nd Ave and I-30 (Northwest corner).  Kinkisharo refurbs light rail cars there in a metal building.  Of course, PD 269 zoning (Deep Ellum) specifically dis-allows both the maintenance of "railed vehicles" and the construction of metal buildings (ha!).  So the City re-interpreted the use and the construction materials.  Those aren't really rail cars in the building and that building is not really made metal.  See, no problem.  Your eyes are lying to you.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

What about solar-powered water taxis?


Do they make those as well?

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault