Train to nowhere? New Irving DART station is a lonely place

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 10:26 AM

Irving Convention Center Station

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IRVING — It could be called the "train to nowhere," or perhaps the "loneliest DART station in North Texas."

The new Irving Convention Center light rail station stands largely isolated — surrounded by empty fields.

“Had the economy not done what it did, we’d see more on the ground right now,” said Maura Gast, executive director of Irving’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As workers prepare for the opening of the first segment of DART's Orange Line extension, planned development surrounding one of its stations has yet to materialize. The glistening concrete platform simply empties into muddy fields.

By now, city leaders hoped the rail station — near Irving’s new convention center — would be surrounded by a dense urban development that included a plaza, hotel, and restaurants.

The $250 million Las Colinas Entertainment Center, to be built by the city and a private developer, was envisioned to connect the rail station to the convention center.

The entertainment development has been saddled with controversy and funding troubles. Investigations have unearthed accusations of mismanaged funds. The troubled project now faces an August deadline to find financing.

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, a staunch opponent of the project, promised that even if the entertainment complex falls through, the land around that rail station won’t go to waste.

“We will have development; I’m not concerned,” she told News 8. “I’m hopefully optimistic we’ll complete a legitimate entertainment project.”

DART trains will start servicing the convention center station on July 30. There may be little surrounding the station, yet DART believes commuters will still use it. The agency expects the rail station to be fed by a bus terminal that sits a few hundred yards away... and across a busy highway.

“The city’s got plans for around our station,” said DART spokesperson Mark Ball. “So we put our building where we were asked to put it.”

Irving’s convention center is also expected to be a draw, even though it sits about one-third of a mile away.

“Right now, it’s a walk,” Gast conceded, saying a sidewalk through the field must still be built to get conventioneers to the station.

DART is also building its own pathways connecting the station to the bus terminal and the convention center.

Gast predicted that the station — with or without the surrounding development — will still be a hit with conventioneers, especially once the Orange Line reaches Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

City leaders insist the area is still a big draw for rail riders, even without the development.

“If I could wave the magic wand and have it all done in full, I’d love that to happen,” Gast said. “We’re not there yet. It’s coming.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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