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DART Seeks Money To Finish Orange Line

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Dallas Area Rapid Transit promises the City of Irving it is looking for more money to finish the Orange line to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. City leaders hope so. KERA's Bill Zeeble reports Irving has a lot riding on the project.

In the past few months, they have, at times, seemed to be at each other's throats. When DART announced a 3 billion dollar shortfall over the next 20 years, it said the so-called I-3 stop at DFW Airport - would have to end or be delayed. Irving was upset. The city has 4 billion development dollars tied to completing that line.

DART CEO Gary Thomas told the Irving City Council he's studying 3 ways to finish "I-3." First, financial experts are scrubbing hundreds of contracts hoping to squeeze extra money out of them.

Thomas: We're also looking at our financial situation from a debt structuring standpoint, to see if we can re-structure. And the 3rd component, specifically related to I-3 is there a more refined cost estimate? What is that number?

Thomas says because construction costs and interest rates have dropped in this recession, it should now be cheaper to finish the Airport stop. Both Thomas and Irving reject a proposed joint plan with the Cotton Belt line, That's a proposed public - private partnership. Irving Council member Rick Stopfer says keep them separate.

Irving Council member Rick Stopfer: The Cotton Belt always been an issue. It's never been right or wrong, should we or shouldn't we, but let's not mix apples and oranges. Let's finish what we started.

Stopfer says Irving understands hard times and setbacks. The airport stop was to be finished in 2013. But he says DART's not giving up on it, nor is he.

Stopfer: If there's a 6 month delay, one way or another, I think that the goal, they key, to me is to get it done. if we have those commitments to get it done, & have to go out and find a few more dollars, then we'll all go out and do that. and make it happen.

A portion of DART's light rail project has been funded with federal dollars. Last year's stimulus money helped. DART's Gary Thomas hopes for more federal money, but he cannot count on it. That's because he says lawmakers must pass a new transportation bill. The old one expired last year.

Thomas: The transportation bill is absolutely one of the most important things we've got to deal with. That bill will then help us define what the opportunities are for federal funding. With without a bill I don't' have a lot of choices.

Thomas and Irving leaders say the next month or so is critical, as both dig down into their budgets seeking available dollars.

Email Bill Zeeble