DART Holds Public Hearing For Comments on Cotton Belt Corridor Project

by Alan Fleck

DART’s Board of Directors held a Public Hearing at DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) Headquarters in Dallas to receive comments regarding amendments to the Cotton Belt Corridor Project plan on Tuesday, March 27.

A number of elected officials were present to voice their communities’ support of the amendments, as were nearly 40 members of the public, expressing their general support of the Cotton Belt Corridor plan, while requesting various tweaks and assurances.

Before public comments were received, Steve Salin, DART Vice-President Capital Planning, provided an overview of the amendments to the Cotton Belt Corridor Plan. The amendments to the existing plan include adjustments to alignment, grade separations, station locations, and facility locations. Six new stations, four alignment deviations, and eight new grade separations are proposed.

Alignment deviations will occur at DFW Airport, Cypress Waters, Downtown Carrollton, and CityLine Bush. Cypress Waters and CityLine Bush alignment locations indicate that passenger trains will briefly travel on a track separate from those used by freight trains.

In addition to the previously planned stations for the Cotton Belt Corridor, including (from west to east) Downtown Carrollton, Knoll Trail, Preston Road, Coit Road, the University of Texas at Dallas, and 12th Street Plano, Salin described six new stations including (from west to east) DFW Airport Terminal B Station (not being built by DART), North DFW Station, Cypress Waters Station, Addison Station, CityLine Bush Station, and Shiloh Station.

Salin’s presentation showed the Preston Road Station is a candidate for elimination. At the same time, there has been some concern expressed about whether a station at Coit is necessary, since it would be only a mile away from the UT Dallas station.

Speakers providing comment on the amendments started with Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker.

“I am happy to once again have this opportunity to represent the city of Richardson and support for the progress of the Cotton Belt project,” Voelker said. “We are comfortable with DART’s reputation for implementing noise mitigation strategies on other parts of its system, and we are confident that you will continue to show the same level of care and service for the Cotton Belt Line as it runs through our community. This is an exciting time for Richardson, and you have our full support to bring this project forward. I know our future generations are going to look at this line as one of the best resources available for Richardson.”

Ashley Mitchell, Addison’s Deputy City Manager, indicated Addison’s support for the amended plan.

“Addison is happy to support the Service Plan Amendment,” Mitchell said. “Addison is an important employment center and entertainment destination for the region. Many of the people who work in the area and visit our town will be within walking distance of our rail line.”

Traci Leach, Deputy City Manager of Coppell expressed support for the amended plan.

“Regional mobility is a value that is consistent with Coppell’s strategic plan,” Leach said. “The city supports transit-oriented development.” Leach mentioned Coppell’s requests for quiet zones near certain residential crossings of the Cotton Belt line in Coppell.

Dr. Calvin Jamison, vice-president of administration at UT Dallas, described the current and growing population of university riders of DART. UT Dallas has nearly 27,000 students. When the new transit corridor opens, UT Dallas will have nearly 7,200 students living on or near the campus. UT Dallas is one of the top five employers in the city of Richardson with nearly 3,600 employees. Nearly 30,000 individuals are concentrated in one area.

“We need the DART station to help moderate the flow of people and traffic,” Jameson said. “On behalf our president, Richard Benson, I would like to convey our institution’s full support for the Service Plan Amendment and development of the Cotton Belt Line.”

All speakers expressed support for the Service Plan Amendment while some indicated desired tweaks or remaining concerns.

Phyllis Silver, a resident of Addison and regular DART customer, expressed concern regarding the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Daniel Powell from North Dallas supports the resolution, but wants more advanced noise mitigation.

John Richardson lives close to the right of way along the Cotton Belt route and expressed concern about the taxable value of homes.

Rick Gover, a resident of Shelmont Place, opposes the Preston Road station, believing additional traffic issues will result from the addition of the station.

Frank Morris advised of his concern that noise barriers must be used properly. In some cases, noise barriers should be used on both sides of the track.

Fred Kenner expressed a concern that there are lots of kids in the neighborhoods that the Cotton Belt Line will pass through. Additionally, in some cases, houses are 25 feet below the level of the tracks. DART needs to take all noise and safety mitigation seriously.

Peter LaCody from Texas Rail Advocates, supports the Service Plan Amendments and predicts that one day in the future the Carrollton Station will become a ‘mega-station’ as the intersection for many intersecting lines including the Cotton Belt line, the Dart Red Line, and the ‘A’ Train (if extended).