DALLAS — As DART prepares to open the new Orange Line extension of its light rail network, many are looking ahead to the line’s final stop: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
On Monday, DART trains rolled into three new stations in Irving for the first time. But that's just the first phase of a $1.3 billion project that should eventually bring trains to the world's fourth-busiest airport.
“It’s going to be a tremendous help,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said. “It is going to make this area so much easier to visit. It will be a convention magnet. It will be a vacation location.”
She hopes the transit project will better open up North Texas to visitors, letting them avoid highways and cabs and take a train directly to downtown Dallas.
“There are probably not even 10 American airports with direct rail service like this,” said DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. “There’s a lot of excitement about being at the airport, because it is done so infrequently in this country.”
He expects the rail service to be popular not just with tourists, but also with the 60,000 people who work at D/FW International.
DART will offer a shuttle bus service to the airport once it opens the second section of the Orange Line in December. Trains will then inch even closer to D/FW when they start serving a new station along Belt Line Road on the airport property.
The third section of the Orange Line will actually go directly to a terminal.
“We’re already getting e-mails from people who work at D/FW wanting schedule information for trips in December,” Lyons said.
The final leg of the Orange Line, however, is at least a year behind schedule and far more expensive than first thought. Yet Lyons insists the funding is in place, the route is settled, and construction is under way.
“This has been in the plans for a long time,” he said. “We’ll be there in 2014.”
The work was originally supposed to be completed by 2013; now DART hopes to begin service by December, 2014.
D/FW Airport is spending $36 million to build a train station near Terminal A. Work has already started, and should be complete by next year — making it ready long before the rail line.
The train station will sit outside the northern end of Terminal A near the service road; arriving DART passengers will then have to walk to the terminal. Officials insist the walk shouldn’t take longer than three minutes and will be along a covered pathway.
Once inside Terminal A, passengers will then be able to pass through security and use the airport’s Skylink train to access other terminals.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Amanda Rickman of Richardson, who said she’d rather take a train than fight traffic and pay to park at the airport.
“It’s a pain,” she said. A rail service would "make it easier to get to the airport. Don’t have to leave your car here.”