Work begins on long-awaited McKinney Avenue trolley line extension
Sunday April 15, 2012
Dallas Morning News – by David Flick
Crews broke pavement this month in Uptown on the long-awaited extension of the McKinney Avenue trolley system — an ambitious project that could fundamentally change the popular streetcar line.
“This is a game changer for us,” said Phil Cobb, chairman of the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority. “We’re not just a little Uptown amusement ride anymore; we’re coming into downtown.”
The Olive Street project is one of two projects by the transit authority that when completed next year will allow streetcars to loop through the northeastern end of downtown.
The loop, funded with $5 million in federal money, adds about a mile to the existing 2.8-mile route.
It will link the DART station near West Village at the northern end of Uptown to the Pearl Street station on the eastern end of downtown. Cobb said the route will make the trolley system — originally built as a novelty to attract visitors to the bars and restaurants along McKinney Avenue — more attractive to commuters.
The number of such commuters has gradually increased in recent years, and MATA officials have been working to make the system more attractive for everyday use. In December, for example, DART reoriented the western entrance to its Cityplace station to face a newly constructed trolley turntable at the northern terminus.
The downtown extension is far more ambitious. It could double or triple the 325,000 riders who annually use the system, Cobb said.
Although utility work on the extension has been going on for months, aboveground work began about two weeks ago along the west side of Olive Street near McKinney Avenue.
Workers are scheduled to begin laying rail within the next few weeks down to Federal Street, a project that should take about a year.
Later this year, a second project will begin at what is currently the route’s southern terminus on St. Paul Street, near Ross Avenue. The route will extend south on St. Paul, and then turn east along Federal, where it will link to the Olive Street extension.
Though the St. Paul/Federal phase is starting later, the Olive Street phase is more complicated, so the two projects should be completed in the spring of 2013, said Keith Manoy, senior program manager for the Dallas transportation planning office.
Several months of testing will follow. The public can begin riding the new loop in fall 2013, Manoy said.
The extension will include a stop along Olive Street in the center of Klyde Warren Park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Cobb said the opening of the park is also expected to have an effect on trolley ridership.
“You can park either Uptown or downtown and take us to the park, where parking, as I understand it, will be practically zero,” he said. “We intend to add cars during special events.”
MATA officials are also preparing to increase the current fleet of four cars to six. Unlike the wood trolleys now in use, the additional cars will be steel. They will be larger and faster — again, a bid for more commuter use, Cobb said.