Making DART work for everyone is more than just using transit to get from A to B. D2 is a vital project to increase transportation capacity and flexibility in the downtown area as our region continues to grow. Both capacity and flexibility are key for economic growth, safety, and long-term sustainability.
Federal funding plays a critical role in allowing us to continue to improve our region’s transit system, but federal funding will only cover a portion of the cost. Whatever isn’t covered by federal dollars must be covered by local funding, and we all share that cost.
That’s why, every step of the way, we’re doing all we can to ensure that the D2 project brings the most benefit to the North Texas region at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
Here are the top six considerations when it comes to securing the federal funding we need for D2 and the transit system as a whole:
- Congress Dictates How Much Funding is Available. Three pieces of legislation — The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) — place caps on how much of the total project budget the federal government will subsidize. Subsequent appropriations by Congress and allocations by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) further determine funding availability. To secure funding from the FTA, D2 must not only adhere to specific planning and budget requirements but must also represent one of the best investments for the federal government out of all the projects competing for federal funding.
- Grades Matter. When cities and regions ask for federal funding, the FTA gives each proposal a grade based on project strength and viability relative to other proposals under consideration. The lower the grade, regardless of the number of dollars requested, the less likely the project will receive a federal funding allocation.
- Time is Money. The D2 rail alignment should be built as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible, not to mention that downtown Dallas needs a solution sooner rather than later. The longer large infrastructure projects take to build, the more expensive they become. Working through the federal red tape is part of that equation. The more dollars DART asks for, the more the project will be bogged down by FTA scrutiny, regulatory requirements, and federal budget constraints — all of which will add to the full cost of the project.
- We’re Not the Only Ones Asking for Funding. DART is competing with other areas across the nation for a finite pool of federal transit funding, and the federal government will be looking to stretch those funds as far as possible while still meeting the needs of communities across the nation. Places like Chicago, San Francisco, and New York are in the mix, and they have larger, more expensive projects that will require larger pieces of the federal funding pie. North Texas has to make its request for D2 as reasonable as possible while still finding the right solution for our region.
- North Texas Needs More than Just D2. Building out a truly interconnected, efficient multi-modal transportation system for North Texas involves a number of expansion projects over the next several years. The more we ask the government to spend on D2, the less funding we will have access to for other priorities, such as the streetcar project and the Cotton Belt. A cost-efficient light rail alignment offers more flexibility for North Texas’ public transportation future.
- Looking at the Long-Term Costs. There’s more to the cost of a project than just the dollars involved in getting it built. Long-term maintenance and operational costs are also key considerations when it comes to making decisions about which solution we pursue for D2.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll dive deeper into the factors surrounding D2’s budget, the complexities of securing federal funding, and making wise decisions for the long term. North Texas won’t be able to build the solution we need without sufficient federal funding, so it’s up to all of us to work together in defining a rail alignment that moves North Texas forward.
For more information about the D2 project, visit DART.org/d2.