Last week, Chad Edwards, Kay Shelton, and Carlos Huerta provided an update on the Cotton Belt project, where it currently stands, and what comes next during a special Cotton Belt Facebook Live. Chad and Kay also answered questions from the viewers about just how the Cotton Belt will impact their communities.
In case you missed it, watch the Cotton Belt Facebook Live here. Today we’re leaving you with five key things you should know about North Texas’ latest regional rail line.
- Current status and public comment period.
DART is currently wrapping up the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Cotton Belt project, which is being led by the the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), and in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Once published in the next several weeks, there will be a 45-day public comment period during which DART will be hosting public comment hearings, giving each speaker three minutes to provide their comments. All information gathered during these hearings will be recorded and addressed in the final EIS. You can also send your comments electronically by emailing [email protected].
- Timeline and history.
Iterations of the Cotton Belt project have been included in DART’s transit plan since 1983. The project has evolved over the years in response to the massive population growth in our region—which makes sense since the region has grown by more than 1 million people! To prepare for more growth and maintain flexibility in our region in the future, DART reinitiated the project in late 2016 and spent the next year holding numerous meetings, collecting data, conducting analyses, and identifying potential issues along the corridor where mitigation may be needed. Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2019 with completion expected in December 2022.
- Proposed mitigation efforts.
The draft EIS will cover many ways DART will mitigate potential issues, including traffic, noise, vibration, safety, and preserving historic landmarks. The draft EIS not only addresses the potential impacts the project could have on local communities, but also includes what DART is doing to prevent or minimize these impacts. For example, in the case of sound or noise impacts, DART is proposing noise barrier walls as well as the establishment of 36 new “quiet zones” along the corridor. A quiet zone eliminates the need to blow the train horn when passing through street crossings, reducing a major source of noise issues in residential communities.
- Vehicle selection.
Along with corridor design and mitigation efforts, the actual vehicles planned for use in the Cotton Belt help ensure the project fits seamlessly into the communities it will serve. In this case, the vehicles will be very similar (although not exact replicas) to the vehicles TEXRail will be using for their project. At 267 feet long, they are comparable in size to two light rail vehicles already in service. The vehicles the Cotton Belt will be using will have new, self-propelled technology so there is no overhead wire system, resulting in a cleaner look without a lot of poles and wires.
- Corridor adjustments.
DART owns the entire 26-mile stretch of railroad corridor from Plano to DFW. In a few key locations along the route, however, the Cotton Belt corridor will deviate from the existing line to better connect the communities to the services, destinations, and opportunities they seek. This includes Cypress Waters, a mixed-use development in Dallas; downtown Carrollton, a hub for different railways that requires a separate track to ensure the Cotton Belt schedule is not impacted; and the CityLine development in Richardson, which is a dynamic new area that is opening employment, entertainment, and economic opportunities.
Thanks for tuning in to our Cotton Belt Facebook Live or catching up with what you missed here. If you have any other questions about the project, visit www.DART.org/cottonbelt or email us at [email protected].