1996 was the year DART delivered big! But the year began with five major pull-out elections scheduled; a lawsuit pending with an injunction to stop the light rail build-out and DART’s promise to open light rail, commuter rail and High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) service on time and on budget.
Everything was on the line that year and the DART staff and Board knew it. If things had gone wrong, it was possible that DART would be history and not make history.
Ironically, a year that started out with so many challenges ended up the year that DART finally faced down the powerful critics who were sure that DART was an expensive boondoggle and Texans would never get out of their cars! Well, as we know, they were wrong. These things happened during 1996 and set the stage for the transit system we enjoy today.
- The citizens of five cities (Carrollton, Garland, Irving, Plano and Rowlett) voted overwhelmingly to stay with DART.
- The injunction to stop DART failed.
- The first 11 miles of DART’s Light Rail Starter System opened to great fanfare on Friday, June 14. The crowds waved and cheered on that very hot day when that first train carrying the VIP’s rolled through downtown Dallas.
- In September, new HOV lanes opened on I-35E, Stemmons Freeway, north of LBJ Freeway.
- In December, the first 10 miles of the Trinity Railway Express opened from Union Station to Irving.
Of my 27 years on the DART staff, 1996 is the year etched most in my memory. I was so proud to be part of a team – Board, staff and community leaders – who pulled together and delivered under pressure when failure was not an option.
Editor’s note: Sue Bauman recently joined the DART Board of Directors as an appointee of the Dallas City Council. She was Vice President of Marketing and Communications at DART in 1996 when DART Rail began, and continued in that role until 2011.