A bill has been filed that would make it possible for Arlington to join Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
Senate Bill 1461 by state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, would clear up confusion about what cities are eligible to join the agency, which operates more than 90 miles of light rail, co-owns the Trinity Railway Express and runs a massive bus system. The bill specifies that a city is eligible to join a transit authority if any part of the city "is located in a county that is adjacent to a county in which the authority has territory."
DART is headquartered in Dallas County, next door to Arlington in Tarrant County.
A companion bill, HB 3642, was filed in the House by state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving. The bills were filed Thursday and Friday, just before the deadline for non-emergency and non-local bills during the legislative session.
Arlington and DART officials are courting each other these days. Arlington later this year hopes to roll out bus service between its downtown area and the TRE's CentrePort train station, in a two-year pilot project funded by business leaders and the University of Texas at Arlington.
DART, meanwhile, is aggressively seeking new cities to enter its fold. Arlington is an obvious choice, with more than 300,000 residents and a reputation as the nation's largest city without full-fledged transit service.
But Arlington voters have rejected transit three times since 1980. Even so, DART and the T are proposing to run Arlington's two-year bus service for just $700,000 a year - if Arlington agrees to hold an election asking residents to join DART within four years.
Under current law cities must be in the same county where DART is located, or adjacent to a current DART city. There was some sentiment that DART can already claim to be located in Tarrant County, since the agency co-owns the TRE and makes daily runs from Fort Worth to Dallas.
Also, DART owns the Cotton Belt railroad tracks in Fort Worth, where the proposed TEX Rail line is tentatively scheduled to begin operating in 2016.
But DART officials are seeking clarity to ensure they can bring Arlington and perhaps other Metroplex cities into the fold, DART board member Mark Enoch of Rowlett said.
"We have assets in Tarrant County, with the TRE. We have liabiilty there, employees there," he said. "But one of the issues we're looking at it, we're asking legislators to clear up that law."
BTW, the photo at right is of the Mavs Mobile, an electric shuttle used to ferry passengers from the fledgling College Park District to the E. H. Hereford University Center. It's not necessarily the type of vehicle that will be used in the pilot project getting passengers to and from CentrePort Station in the Trinity Railway Express line ... although, why not?
Arlington businessman Victor Vandergriff announced Wednesday that he is leaving the North Texas Tollway Authority board, a position he has held since 2007.
Vandergriff was chairman of the board in 2010 and 2011, taking over from predecessor Paul Wageman of Plano, who guided the agency through tremendous growth but was sometimes criticized for aggressive management.
The decision takes effect at the end of the month, a tollway official said.
Vandergriff attempted to unify the board, but was unable to pass through sweeping changes on the tollway authority's reliance on a small number of legal, engineering and other professional firms to do virtually all of its day-to-day work. So he stepped down as chairman and was replaced by former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr, the current chairman.
Still, Vandergriff received a standing ovation from the tollway board during a meeting Wednesday in Plano.
Vandergriff was a vocal member of the board when key projects were delivered, including the Sam Rayburn Tollway in Denton and Collin counties, and the western extension of the President George Bush Turnpike in Grand Prairie and Irving (a key route to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington).
“We cannot thank Victor enough for the countless hours he has dedicated to working on NTTA projects that increase mobility for North Texas drivers,” Barr said in a statement.
He also oversaw the conversion of the region's tollways to an all-electronic form of collection - essentially doing away with the toll booths - and the beginning of construction on the 28-mile Chisholm Trail Parkway project from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.s. 67 in Cleburne.
Chisholm Trail Parkway is scheduled for completion in 2014.
More recently, Vandergriff was trying to secure construction of the Texas 360 extension south of Arlington-Mansfield to U.S. 287.
Arlington's image as the largest city in the U.S. without mass transit could be making a dramatic turnaround. A bus service to UT-Arlington is scheduled to being next fall, and it could lead to the creation of a rail line from the campus to CentrePort, just south of DFW Airport. And, as if that's not enough, Arlington is in a position to win a stop on the region's high-speed rail line - yes, that's 200 mph trains - planned for 2020.