Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) opened the first 4.5 miles of Orange Line light rail in Irving on July 30. The first section of the 14-mile, $1.3 billion line includes stops at the University of Dallas, Las Colinas Urban Center, and Irving Convention Center.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy joined DART President/Executive Director and APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas at the opening-day event.
“With the opening of the Orange Line, thousands of people now can reach one of the region’s densest employment centers via public transit,” said Thomas. “That makes it easier for people to not only find jobs, but also pursue careers.”
According to DART, light rail will bring new access to employment and educational opportunities to the area, most notably in the master-planned community of Las Colinas. It also provides an alternative to driving for the thousands of area residents who commute to and from work in Irving.
The arrival of light rail in this corridor represents more than 12 years of land-use planning by DART, the city of Irving, the Las Colinas Association, and the Dallas County Utilities Reclamation District.
The second phase of the Orange Line will enter service Dec. 3, extending light rail service to North Lake College and Belt Line Road. Passengers traveling to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport can pick up buses at Belt Line Station; a station at the airport is scheduled to open in 2014.
“The Orange Line is going to be huge for improving mobility and for getting commuters in and out of Irving and Las Colinas,” Hutchison said. “And when the section into DFW Airport is open, the ability to travel to the Dallas area by transit will be enormous for the economy.”
Federal Funds Seed Economic Recovery
DART’s massive $3.4 billion light rail expansion, which includes the Orange Line, has provided a much needed stimulus during the economic downturn.
The Irving buildout received $61.2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds because of its employment impact and ability to attract additional development, companies, employees, and residents to Irving.
The agency reported that the current light rail construction project produced more than 600 jobs at some 80 contractor companies in 14 states.
Federal officials closely monitored the project’s progress and cited the Orange Line as one of the top “Recovery Act Projects Changing America.”
DART Rail is already the largest electric light rail system in North America. Upon completion of the Orange Line in 2014, it will total almost 90 miles of track.
Irving is the only city in the service area, other than Dallas, to have both light and commuter rail service.
Trinity Railway Express commuter rail has operated in South Irving since December 1996 along the right-of-way of the Rock Island Railway, where the city was founded in the early 1900s.
The highly anticipated arrival of DART Rail has spurred construction of luxury apartment communities throughout the Las Colinas Urban Center, with more than 7,000 units existing or planned, and several transit-oriented developments in the works.
To better link major points of interest in Las Colinas, DART also introduced a new weekday circulator bus service that originates at the Urban Center Station and stops at the entrance of the Irving Convention Center.
Station Art Reflects the Community
DART also has added to its growing collection of public art with new displays at the three new Orange Line stations.
The agency’s award-winning Station Art & Design Program creates site-specific works that allow the stations to become vibrant public spaces instead of purely public transit stops.
A local advisory committee works with planners, architects, and engineers at the earliest stages of station design and later gives input to the station artist about themes and materials, to ensure the station reflects the history and culture of the community it serves.
Art is then integrated into the design of column claddings, platform pavers, windscreens, and landscaping.
The inaugural DART Orange Line train breaks a ribbon as it arrives in Irving, TX.