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Downtown Dallas could be bypassed under high-speed rail proposal to Arlington, Fort Worth

High-speed rail service in Dallas-Fort Worth, still in the planning stages, could bypass downtown Dallas under one proposal.
Courtesy image
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Texas Central Partners
High-speed rail service in Dallas-Fort Worth, still in the planning stages, could bypass downtown Dallas under one proposal.

High-speed rail could zip past downtown Dallas under a revised route that regional elected leaders will consider this week.

The proposal, developed after the Dallas City Council approved a June 12 resolution opposing an elevated line through downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, will be shared at a Regional Transportation Council meeting scheduled July 11 in Arlington.

Fort Worth-area leaders have pledged to support a rail plan that will benefit North Texas, where the population is expected to double from 8 million to more than 15 million by 2050, according to growth estimates presented by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The transportation council is an independent policy group of the council of governments.

The revised route to connect Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth with high-speed rail to Houston incorporates about 97% of the initial proposal, said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the council of governments.

The new route “will salvage our commitment” to high-speed rail, Morris said. The plan was still being worked out days before the July 11 meeting.

Morris said it was ironic that Dallas City Council members opposed an elevated high-speed rail line through the city’s downtown, as they gave initial approval to the plan.

Under the new plan, a high-speed rail station would be located south of downtown and avoid connections to the Union Station rail complex and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas, which will undergo a $3.7 billion expansion intended to boost tourism, create jobs and connect downtown with South Dallas.

The Dallas resolution approved last month calls for a four-month economic impact study to determine the positive and negative aspects of the plan. Council members said they were concerned a proposed seven-story high rail line through the Central Business District could hurt redevelopment work.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, installed as the new Regional Transportation Council chair last month, said the rail plan has “regional implications.”

“Whatever the case is, it’s not just one city,” he said.

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Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said she supports high-speed rail in the city, now the 12th largest in the nation.The long-term success of North Texas is connected to successful regional partnerships, she added.

“High-speed rail is an integral part of our transportation future and it will include Tarrant County,” Parker said in a statement issued last month. “Collectively, our success is dependent on world class mobility solutions that connect not just DFW but the entire state of Texas.”

Arlington Mayor Jim Ross has said he also supports the project and plans to attend the July 11 meeting.

The rail project would include underground stops in Arlington and Fort Worth.

Dallas City Council member Chad West, who serves on the Regional Transportation Council, said the Dallas council has been on recess in July, so he hadn’t heard about the proposed route to bypass downtown Dallas.

He described that proposal as “interesting.”

The initial plan, he said, included a stop in The Cedars neighborhood south of downtown, which would address the Dallas council’s concerns about the rail project’s impact on the Central Business District.

“There are pros and cons to that,” West said, adding that he supports an underground stop in downtown Dallas.

West said he supports the rail project to Arlington and Fort Worth but wants to ensure that downtown Dallas is protected. Making downtown Dallas more walkable is important, West said, especially as the 2026 FIFA World Cup will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city.

Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, another transportation council member, said he supports high-speed rail to Arlington and Fort Worth but suggested that other routes that link Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and southern Dallas County might be good alternatives to a downtown Dallas stop.

“Those two routes make some sense,” Fickes said, adding that there are other right-of-way tracts available for the project.

Last month, Morris did not rule out a submerged rail line but said that the underground option in downtown Dallas won’t work for the “one-seat ride” approach that would require trains to slow down.

Morris said he and other council of governments staff members are working on other plans that would address population growth, density and transit.

Among the ideas being touted is an elevated gondola-style system called Whoosh by Swyft Cities, a Google spinoff company, that could be used in five cities — Arlington, Dallas, DeSoto, Frisco and Plano. The transportation system uses an aerial network of cables and rails to move people.

In Arlington, Morris said, the system could be used to move people around the city’s Entertainment District, where the Six Flags Over Texas theme park, Globe Life Field and AT&T Stadium are located. The system would also be useful in Dallas’ Fair Park, as well as for major employers.

Creating regional transportation plans is challenging, Morris said.

“We’re trying to keep the focus on everyone rowing the boat in the same direction,” he said.

Eric E. Garcia is a senior business reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at eric.garcia@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.