StreetcarThe North Texas Council of Governments is expected to approve using a $30 million state-funded grant to extend the planned Oak Cliff streetcar line.

Initial plans for the streetcar called for a line from Union Station, across the Houston Street Viaduct, to the intersection of Beckley and Colorado. That $28-million project is being funded mostly by a federal grant. And while almost everyone wants the streetcar to extend ten blocks to Bishop Arts, the money wasn’t there. It costs about $10 million a mile to build.

But the council of governments found this $30 million, which was to be used as part of a $300 million transportation project at Love Field. Dubbed “the big dig,” that project would’ve extended the DART green line and funded a train station at the airport. It would be nice to take DART rail to the airport. But the $300 million was never amassed, says City Councilman Scott Griggs. That project was shelved, and the council was faced with a “use it or lose it” scenario. The council must spend the grant before the Texas Legislature, which opened its 2013 session today, finds another use for it.

The $30 million would fund adding two streetcars and extending the line from Beckley/Colorado to the intersection of Davis and Zang. It would also pay to extend the line from Union Station to the intersection of Young and Wood, at the Omni hotel.

The council is expected to vote on the grant Thursday. Construction on the streetcar line is expected to start next month, and earlier projections have speculated the project could be finished as early as fall 2014.