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Dallas accelerates light rail expansion

DALLAS (AP) -- Dallas area voters on Saturday approved using USD2.9 billion in long-term financing to speed up light rail construction to parts of Dallas and some suburbs. The vote was 25,928 -- about 77 percent -- in favour of the project over 7,675 -- or about 23 percent -- opposed. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) wants to build rail lines to Carrollton, Farmers Branch, north Irving, south Dallas, Fair Park, Pleasant Grove, Rowlett and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport over a 15-year span -- about five years earlier than planned.

"It will allow us to build the system that we're going to build anyway, but it will allow us to build it four and a half to five years sooner," said Robert Pope, vice chairman of the DART board.

Construction on the first segment of the rail additions -- including a route from downtown to Fair Park, in east Dallas -- should begin in 2003, Pope said.

DART had to obtain voter approval to use anything longer than five-year debt. The ballot stipulates that the agency will borrow no more than USD2.9 billion.

The measure does not raise tax rates in DART's 13 member cities, where the agency collects a 1 percent sales tax. Instead, it allows DART to exchange its "pay as you go" system for 30-year financing that would allow more projects to be built at once.

The proposal will help DART build about 49 more miles of light rail, along with buying new buses and constructing more than 100 new miles of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

15 August 2000

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