$35 million budget for streetcars is narrow, schedule is breakneck

The $35 million streetcar line from Union Station to Oak Cliff has a “very aggressive and compressed schedule” and a very tight budget, project manager Jay Kline of DART said in a community meeting Thursday night.

The project is getting $23 million in federal stimulus money, and the Federal Transit Administration told the city it must be completed by the end of 2013. The remaining $12 million is coming from regional toll revenue.

That leaves a little more than a year before construction must begin. So the city is expected to hire a design/build team to start drafting a plan in the next couple of months. Before any plan can really get underway though, the project must be found to have no significant environmental impact.

The upcoming environmental impact study and public commenting periods are expected to take all spring. Kline says he hopes the project will get a “finding of no significant impact” in early summer. Construction must begin in the second half of 2012.

The preliminary plan takes the single-track streetcar from Union Station to either Colorado and Beckley or Zang and Beckley.

DART, which will implement and operate the streetcar line for the city, will use its light rail tracks to transport the streetcars to it maintenance facilities. The cars will have similar electrical systems and the same track widths as DART trains.

The car will run on a single track, so once the line is up, only one car will run at a time. And the line will take one lane of traffic, including the right-hand lane going across the Houston Street Viaduct.

The streetcar line is “a pretty tall order for $35 million”, Kline says.

He broke down some of the expected costs to create the 1.5-mile line. The streetcar itself costs about $4 million. Making connections from the streetcar tracks to the DART tracks is about $9 million. Upgrades to the maintenance facilities is about $5 million. And repairs to the Houston Street Viaduct, which has been damaged from years of poor drainage, are expected to cost $6 million. Those things alone add up to $24 million. Other costs include engineering and design fees, track construction and testing.

“We have a real concern on the capital,” Kline says.

Extending the line farther into Oak Cliff would cost about $20 million per mile, based on estimates from streetcar construction in other cities. The distance between Zang and Beckley to the Tyler/Vernon DART station is almost two miles.

The project’s program manager is Keith Manoy (whose lovely wife Denise owns Indigo 1745 in the Bishop Arts District). Contact him at 214.670.4038 or keith.manoy@dallascityhall.com.


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