Over the past twenty-five years, Dallas has been aggressively expanding its inner city light rail system, DART. This makes the city one of the top contenders in the transit space race. The construction of a second downtown rail right-of-way would solidify the city’s position.
But the city has also been considering its relationship with the surrounding counties, and it, in conjunction with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, has been planning the development of a commuter rail system extending wide out into the suburbs and greatly improving the service currently provided by the Trinity Railroad Express, which travels from Dallas to nearby Fort Worth. The proposal up for consideration currently would expand the system to 215-miles, making it one of the largest commuter rail networks in the country.
Yesterday’s vote on the Regional Transportation Council, which wasn’t unanimous, endorsed the plan. This means that counties in the Dallas area will now beginning the search for adequate tax revenues to support the proposal – no current financing exists to pay for the network. It is unclear how the system would proceed if some counties approve financing and others don’t, but this is the first step in the right direction for providing alternative mobility to the area’s population.
In Seattle, plans for the replacement of the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct have reached another milestone: the choice of two final options to consider. The highway, which serves 100,000 drivers a day, sits on the waterfront in the city and makes it difficult to enjoy the walk between downtown and the water, thereby limiting economic and tourist development in the area. This poses a problem for the city, which has seen the positive effects of waterfront development in cities such as Portland, Baltimore, and Boston.
But the question being considered by State Legislators and the City Council was how to replace the highway. Some wondered whether building another viaduct in its place would be the right option, or whether an underground freeway would make more sense. Others, who looked to Portland, saw the possibility of simply getting rid of the highway altogether and building a park in its place. Here’s the project webpage.
Yesterday’s action, though, implies that there are only two options under full consideration: a new set of viaducts or a “surface and transit” option that would simply build three lanes of roadway along the waterfront and dramatically slow down traffic (this would not be a highway). The surface and transit option would also provide for increases in bus service and potentially the implementation of a new waterfront streetcar.
The viaduct option makes little sense. After all, it will again desecrate the waterfront and make economic development unlikely. Some argue that a highway solution is necessary – that other roads in the city would fill up beyond capacity if a new highway weren’t built. But building the new viaducts would require first the destruction of the old ones, and in the intervening time, there would be no highway… if the city is able to survive in that intermediary without a highway along the waterfront, it would be able to do so in the years to come as well. So the surface and transit option – whose three lanes along the water wouldn’t be the most wonderful thing in the world – still makes the most sense.