The large crowd gradually thinned out during DART’s two-hour public meeting last night about the Cotton Belt Rail Line, but North Dallas folks stuck around until the bitter end. They were certainly the most vocal and for good reason.
The 26-mile Cotton Belt Corridor extends from DFW Airport to the Richardson/Plano border, passing right through Far North Dallas — about 30-50 feet from homeowners’ property lines along Campbell and Davenport. The rail line will be on a double track and run seven days a week.
The city of Dallas passed a resolution (known as the Natinsky plan) that called for the rail line to run in a below-grade trench through the North Dallas section, which roughly extends from Preston to Coit.
Closer studies revealed problems with water resources in that area, particularly the 100-year flood plain. The trench cannot dip below that water elevation line.
“The depth [of the trench] will vary. It will be shallower in some parts,” said John Hoppie, DART planning project manager.
Several neighbors asked the same question regarding the trenches before receiving a straight answer: in some areas of the North Dallas corridor, the trench may only be about 1 or 2 feet deep.
A sound wall, Hoppie said, will make up the rest of that space to help limit noise and vibration. But that wasn’t enough for neighbors whose yards back up to the rail line, and District 12 councilman Sandy Greyson made her response clear.
“A trench of 1 or 2 feet violates the spirit and understanding of the agreement we made with DART,” she said. “We are going to have to do a lot more talking about this.”
The proposed trench was just one of many concerns neighborhood residents have about the Cotton Belt. Another is that there are three stations in close proximity to each in Far North Dallas — more than any other section of the rail line.
Current plans show stations at Knoll Trail just north of Arapaho; the already congested intersection at Preston and Keller Springs; and at Renner Village. Hoppie said station locations were identified by each city.
Greyson said she has no idea who recommended three stations in Far North Dallas, an area that is less likely to even use the rail — it’s simply a pass-through. The first station is just 1.7 miles away from the Addison station.
“When you have a commuter rail, stations have to be at least 3 miles apart,” she said. “This makes absolutely no sense.”
David Dibrell lives on South Point Drive, which directly backs up to the rail line along Campbell. He said that Addison should be the major hub, not Dallas.
In fact, officials with Addison as well as UT-Dallas are thrilled about having the commuter rail line. It makes perfect sense in their communities, but Far North Dallas seems caught in between the two.
Other concerns include noise, vibration, how the rail will affect existing traffic, and where DART will find enough parking to accommodate those three stations.
Hoppie did not have clear answers to neighbors’ concerns — he wont until DART conducts a ridership analysis to determine exactly how the rail will operate.
For now, they’re in the preliminary design stage and moving forward with the environmental impact study. After a series of public hearings, the final plans will be presented by Feb. 2012.
DART is pursuing funding for the rail line through a public-private partnership, but nothing is secured yet.
Four focus groups have been formed for each of the areas affected by the rail line. To find out more about how to get involved with the North Dallas Area Focus Group, contact DART Community Affairs at 214.749.2543.