February 9, 2024 - TRA Newswire -

Underground or above ground? That was the question discussed at length at Thursday's meeting of the North Central Texas Council of Governments' Regional Transportation Council (NCTCOG, RTC).

Should planning for a high speed rail connecter between Fort Worth and Dallas continue to promote an above ground rail route to connect with an already federally approved rail station that would be elevated near the Dallas Convention Center. 

After many opinions were voiced at the NCTCOG meeting held at the Arlington offices, the project was approved along with five other transportation projects totaling more than $100 million, to be spread out across North Texas. But..... some Dallas city officials attending the meeting want a further discussion on the path of the elevated structure and will receive a briefing on the high speed rail project before the next RTC meeting scheduled for March 14th.

Dallas Council Member Cara Mendelsohn, District 12, had previously expressed concern over an elevated rail line near the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center / Cedars neighborhood and voiced if an underground option would be better. However, that option would throw a monkey wrench into a previously approved above-ground high-speed rail station near the convention center that gained the approved of federal regulators for the Dallas to Houston rail segment. 

The elevated train route would be close to the existing Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way downtown, cross over the Trinity River and then descend to ground level near Hampton Road in West Dallas.  

"A modern elevated railway station in downtown Dallas can be as much of a icon for urban revitalization as the signature bridges across the Trinity River", according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "Brightline's Miami Central station is one of many elevated train stations around the globe and the downtown Miami complex has spurred economic growth in a depressed area of the city. There's no reason why the same can't happen in Dallas."

Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials recently abandoned a decision for an underground section of light rail lines downtown, citing that it would be cost prohibitive. Putting the high-speed connector below the surface would have even more challenges than DART discovered during their planning phase. Going from an underground rail line to a already approved above-ground facility would pose a steep climb for trains. 

Michael Morris, Transportation Director for NCTCOG, said "we are purposely not touching the federally approved Dallas station to make sure we do no harm to Amtrak‚Äôs interest to build high-speed rail from Dallas to Houston."

"The above-ground railway station that Texas Central originally planned for the Dallas to Houston segment of their high-speed rail project would be similar in nature to what I saw in Miami with Brightline's complex", according to LeCody. To change the options now would set high-speed rail in Texas back years."

Dallas Council Member Omar Narvaez, the current Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, urged the RTC members to approve funding for the high-speed rail plan and, after a long discussion, all six projects were approved.

Photo credit: Brightline / SOM - Miami Central Downtown Station