East-West Line thru Plano, Richardson, North Dallas, Addison, Carrollton, Coppell, Cypress Waters, DFW Airport
Completion Date – December 22, 2022
Trains every 20 minutes
The final approved DART Cotton Belt Line from Plano to DFW Airport
The Dallas Area Rapid Transit board on Tuesday approved $872 million to build its first east-west commuter rail line — the Cotton Belt — even though it doesn't have the actual cash quite yet. DART leaders met with the Build America Bureau in Washington, D.C., last week to confirm that the federal loan that will finance a 26-mile route connecting Plano, Richardson, Addison, North Dallas and DFW International Airport is expected to close Dec. 20. Within the next few weeks, DART expects to be issued a notice to move forward on the project with its design-build partner, Archer Western Herzog 4.0, which was unanimously awarded an $815 million contract Tuesday night, contingent on the federal loan. The contract will run through Dec. 28, 2022, the anticipated completion date.
It also kept the door open for the board to decide next month whether to spend an additional $90 million to $120 million to add a second track along the line, something the board listed as a preference. "We've discussed the double-track subject for a couple of years," board member Paul Wageman said. "We're going to have significant savings over what we thought the finance costs were on this." Cotton Belt was budgeted as a $1.1 billion project.
About half of the project, including the nine rail stations, is double-tracked as currently bid. Though plans are for Cotton Belt to debut as an every-30-minute service, the contract also calls for three more miles to be double-tracked. That would enable enough two-way passing opportunities to allow runs every 20 minutes. If it doesn't fully double-track the line, the board also has the option to spend $27 million to add a second track to a three-mile area of Far North Dallas, where grade levels and four bridge crossings pose a challenge.
The contract already includes $32 million in "betterments" for neighborhoods lining the route, providing for sound walls, rubber chips to minimize track vibration and other amenities. The first six to eight months, according to staff presentations, will focus on design of the project. The first signs of progress on the ground will be utility relocation and foundation work for bridges.
The Cotton Belt will also connect to DART's existing light rail system at stops in Carrollton, Plano and Richardson. But it will be a commuter rail line, similar to the Trinity River Express, which DART co-owns with Fort Worth's Trinity Metro and connects downtown Dallas and Fort Worth.