Dallas City Council members withdrew support for the proposed high-speed rail linking Dallas to Fort Worth on June 12 until a future economic impact study is completed by the city.

The action

The council passed a resolution opposing construction of any above-ground rail lines in the Downtown, Uptown and Victory Park areas of Dallas, according to the resolution. The resolution states council is committed to revisiting the proposed Dallas-Fort Worth high-speed rail discussion after completion of an economic impact study that was requested in March.

The resolution states City Council is prioritizing redevelopment of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and other needs in the area over any above-ground rail.

About the project

The proposed rail entered the environmental review process earlier this year. The preferred alignment follows the I-30 corridor from downtown Fort Worth to downtown Dallas with plans for three stations along the route. Several alignment alternatives are expected to be considered during the environmental review process.

Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, presented nine potential alignments for the rail’s path through Dallas to City Council in March.

Four alignments featuring elevated rail lines were recommended for advancement to the environmental review phase. The other five alignments, including consideration of a subway, were flawed and not recommended for consideration during environmental review.

The environmental review process is expected to continue despite Dallas City Council’s resolution passed June 12. A timeline has not been determined for funding or construction on the project yet.

What’s next?

The environmental review process is expected to conclude in February, Morris said during a June 13 Regional Transportation Council meeting. The NCTCOG is expected to host a workshop on July 13 to provide further information about corridor alignments, according to a staff presentation.

“Staff is suggesting to the chair that we proceed to a workshop so you as RTC members can understand if there’s any implications to the Dallas action or not,” Morris said. “I think there isn’t, and we wish to present that to you on July 11 so we can continue our path forward with regard to advancing the RTC’s goal of high-speed rail.”

Meanwhile, Dallas officials anticipate procuring services for the economic impact study in October after initiating a public solicitation process, interim City Manager Kimberly Tolbert said during the June 12 Dallas City Council meeting.

Dallas Transportation Director Ghassan Khankarli said parameters are still being determined for the study, which will examine potential positive and negative effects either rail alignment could have on the area, he said.

What they’re saying

Multiple Dallas council members expressed a need to pause the project on June 12 because they were not sure how it would impact the city.

Council member Omar Narvaez, who sits on the Regional Transportation Council, said no construction has been scheduled because designs have not been completed. The route is still being determined, he said.

“We can pause, tap the brakes—whatever you want to call it—and that’s okay,” he said. “We need to get this right 'cause this is going to affect Dallas for the next 100 years easily.”

Council member Chad West said he has yet to see elevations or engineering designs provided by the federal government or the NCTCOG despite moving into the environmental phase. He asked Khankarli if the NCTCOG was working with multiple alignments.

Khankarli said different alternatives will be considered with different positive and negative factors during the environmental review process.

“In this case, my anticipation is that they may have two or three preferred alternative alignments that they would like to be looking at,” he said.

Council member Cara Mendelsohn, who also sits on the RTC, said the economic impact study needs to prove the proposed high-speed rail will not harm Dallas.

“I’m not even sure that this should go this far until we even know they’re going to build Dallas to Houston,” she said. “Otherwise we’re just providing a way for our convention business to go to Arlington, for our residents to go party there. We are going to be doing something extremely detrimental to our city.”

Environmental review of the rail’s alignments is a federal process and should offer the city plenty of opportunities to provide input, Khankarli said.

“We have to make sure we are at the table and making the necessary comments or statements that we need to make as part of the project,” he said.