Funding for Oak Cliff streetcar line in jeopardy




Posted on April 11, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 11 at 7:13 PM

DALLAS — The City of Dallas tonight is scrambling again to get started on another big ticket project.

It may lose a $23 million federal grant at the end of this month if it can't show there's money to maintain the first section of a downtown streetcar system.

There is no money set aside, so the search is one to take millions from another transit project.

The city rolled out a streetcar last month to show the potential of getting around downtown. But the reality is, there's no money to maintain the first leg of the planned system from Union Station across the Houston Street bridge to Oak Cliff.

Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez told the City Council's Transportation Committee Monday the federal government wants to see a long-term plan. "We've got this in terms of the operation for not just the first few years, but for a 30-year time period."

A federal grant funds most of the $37 million Oak Cliff starter line, but demands assurance the money is set aside for  $700,000 in annual maintenance costs.

There isn't, so the city wants to pull millions allocated for a people-mover link between the DART Green Line and Love Field airport, but that proposal has raised some questions.

Council member Tennell Atkins wondered whether DART will agree to that plan.  “It's just my concern," he said. "I want to throw those concerns up to make sure we get that all lined up before April, before the time comes.”

The city thinks it can persuade DART and regional transportation officials to go along.

But with the Washington debate about cutting spending... and the city facing another budget gap... is this the time to move on another big project?

Transportation Committee chair and Council member Linda Koop believes the answer is "yes."

“The entire Council wants to move cautiously, and I think that we will move as soon as we see all the sources of funds,” she said.

The next question will be if the starter line could be built by the deadline of late 2013 to create jobs, as the grant demands.