Grant sought to fund Oak Cliff streetcars


by By ROY APPLETON / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:47 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 12:33 PM

The wheels are turning on a project to return streetcars to Oak Cliff.

The vision is bold - and also far from a reality.

But area transportation planners have begun drafting a grant application for federal stimulus dollars to build an electric rail line linking Union Station, the Bishop Arts District and Jefferson Boulevard.

The roughly three-mile line would cross the Trinity River on the Houston Street Viaduct and continue south on Zang Boulevard to Seventh Street. From Seventh, the streetcars would run west to Bishop and south to Jefferson, then return on the same tracks to Union Station.

The Regional Transportation Council is expected to consider the proposal on Aug. 13. With its blessing, the North Central Texas Council of Governments would seek a $96 million grant for both the Oak Cliff system and a streetcar line in Fort Worth.

Each project would connect to the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail between Dallas and Fort Worth. And such a regional, cooperative approach could bolster the request, planners believe.

"We think [the U.S. Department of Transportation] would view it as a good project," said Christie Jestis, a council of governments transportation program manager.

Jason Roberts, president of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, agrees. "We're very optimistic. We feel like we've got a good chance because it's a collaboration."

Jestis said city officials in Dallas and Fort Worth have responded favorably to the proposal. The application deadline is Sept. 15.

The grant would pay only to build the line, and the source of operating funds has not been determined, he said. Options include revenue from tax increment financing districts and Dallas Area Rapid Transit, a potential operator of the line, Roberts said.

A goal, he said, is to have streetcars running on the Houston Street Viaduct by 2012, the bridge's 100th anniversary.