Residents want 1.4-mile rail line project along Denton Drive overhauled; councilwoman calls probability unlikely, promises to address concerns
A group of residents who live near Love Field want the newly elected City Council to derail the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s plans to construct a transfer station on the southwest side of Denton Drive between Burbank and Wyman streets, according to a group representative.
Representatives of the Love Field West Neighborhood DART Committee plan to speak against a specific use permit application for the transfer station at a public hearing when the council members meet for the first session of their new terms on June 27, said Rick Gonzales, who lives on the east side of Love Field.
“We’re obviously trying to establish a relationship with the new City Council,” Gonzales said. “What we’re trying to accomplish on this particular zoning issue is to have this station denied.”
The City Plan Commission has recommended that the City Council approve the application. The previous City Council was scheduled to review the application last month, but the residents succeeded in getting the agenda item postponed until this month when the new council meets.
Gonzales said the effort to stop the construction of the transfer station is the first step in the group’s goal of forcing a redesign of the Northwest Light Rail Line’s path along a 1.4 mile stretch of Denton Drive. The group hopes federal officials can be persuaded to demand the project be “rethought and replanned with the community in mind,” he said.
Known as the Green Line, the rail line will stretch from Southeast Dallas by Fair Park through Deep Ellum by Love Field and on to Farmers Branch and Carrollton. The proposed station on Denton Drive would be known as the Brookhollow Station, where there would be canopies to cover waiting passengers, a drop-off area for buses and a small number of parking spaces for “kiss-and-ride” drop-off for passengers. There would be no day parking allowed.
“There’s a group of us planning on going back to Washington,” said Gonzales, who noted congressional leaders and federal transportation officials have indicated to him in previous discussions that the group needs the support of city officials to accomplish the goal. “What we’re trying to do on this lap is to take the strength of the City Council back to Washington so we can show them this has not been thought out.”
Gonzales said the current alignment of the rail line along Denton Drive would harm the neighborhood’s quality of life. The plan calls for the closing of four streets that now intersect Denton Drive. With trains traveling 64 mph expected to pass along the rail line every 2.5 minutes during two three-hour rush periods per day, the neighborhood’s 6,000 residents will have difficulty leaving and re-entering the area, he said.
The City Council has already approved the closing of the streets.
Gonzales said that although he does not live in the immediate area to be affected by the rail line, he is opposed to it from a neighborhood standpoint.
“What you have is Northwest Dallas coming together as a whole,” Gonzales said. “If any of us can support each other, that’s what we’re going to do.”
If the transfer station is built on the 2.47-acre site, it will accommodate up to 22 buses per hour and cause even more traffic congestion, Gonzales said. The neighborhood is home to two elementary schools, and those students would be at greater risk from the increased traffic, he said.
“We’re adamantly opposed to it,” said Gonzales, who contends that the overall project will diminish property values and retard economic growth.
Gonzales said that he is concerned that residents had little input into the planning of the rail line, but DART officials claim he is incorrect.
Kay Shelton, project manager for DART, said the agency began planning for the rail line and holding meetings in 2001. The meetings continued through 2002, and several residents attended the meetings about street closing, she said.
Shelton said an alternative plan for a tunnel alignment was proposed so planning meetings were stopped until a decision was made on it. The alternative plan was eventually abandoned, and the final plan was presented to the community in late 2005, she said.
“There were several years between our planning and when we started our design that we weren’t out there too much,” Shelton said. “I think a lot of people forgot about the project, couldn’t remember how many streets were being closed and how it was ultimately resolved.”
Shelton said a few of the residents participated on the art and design committee in 2005 and 2006.
Michael Miles, senior manager for DART, noted the City Plan Commission had conducted a “long, protracted process” before recommending approval of the transfer station. It began reviewing the plans in October 2006, and tabled the item for nine times before finally approving in on April 12.
Miles said the benefit of the overall project outweighs any of the inconveniences to the neighborhood, and he is confident the City Council will keep the project moving forward. A people mover project is under study that would link the transfer station to Love Field, he said.
“Obviously, there is a lot of interest at the council level at making that happen and having a station to tie into it,” Miles said.
Miles said he believes the project will enhance the neighborhood by bringing improvements to streets and installing signal lights where none exist now.
Morgan Lyons, DART spokesman, noted construction has been underway in the area for six months on the project. It is expected to continue for two years, he said.
Both Gonzales and DART officials claimed to have the support of District 2 Councilwoman Pauline Medrano when the issue comes up for a vote before the City Council.
Medrano said she has met with the residents and DART officials and thought an agreement had been reached to address all of the neighborhood concerns to everyone’s satisfaction.
Medrano said she suspects any attempt by the neighborhood to stop the construction of the transfer station or force a redesign will fail. All previous attempts have failed, she noted.
“It will be interesting to see what happens,” Medrano said.
But the councilwoman said she will strive to satisfy the residents’ concerns.
“I think DART will address any safety or traffic concerns,” Medrano said. “I will make sure they are addressed and get back to the community.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 22, 2007.