Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
State and local officials joined Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) authorities in formally welcoming the Orange Line during an Art Reception and Dedication Luncheon presented at the Irving Convention Center on July 27.
Stretching from Bachman Station in Dallas the light rail line is just the first 4.5 mile section of the Orange Line. With service beginning on July 30, the line features stations at the University of Dallas, the Las Colinas Urban Center and the Irving Convention Center. When completed the 14 mile, $1.3 billion line will have stops at North Lake College, Beltline and will end at the DFW International Airport. The final leg of the Orange Line is scheduled to open on Dec. 15, 2014.
“Tonight are the opening ceremonies for the Olympics,” said Gary Thomas, President and Executive Director of DART during the Dedication Luncheon. “Today are the opening ceremonies for the Orange Line. They kind of seem to go hand in hand.
“DART has the longest light rail system in the United States. We are not 72 miles anymore, we are 78 miles. If anybody was even close, they are not close anymore.
“Irving was the first city other than Dallas to have Rail when the Trinity Railway Express arrived in Irving in December 1996, six months after the opening of the light rail in Dallas. Today Starts a new chapter in Irving transportation.
“Irving has been with DART since the very beginning – nearly 30 years – and we’ve always weathered our storms and celebrated our triumphs as true partners. Irving has shared in the DART vision, and we’ve done everything we can to help turn Irving’s vision into reality.
“When the Orange Line connects to DFW International Airport in December of 2014, we will be one of only a handful of metros in the country with direct rail access to a major airport.”
Among those celebrating the Orange Line’s opening was Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of the American Transportation Association.
“Public transportation ridership surged in the first quarter 2012 as Americans took nearly 2.7 billion trips, an increase of five percent over the first quarter of last year,” Melaniphy said. “This was on top of a record year in 2011. More and more citizens are riding because we are providing options that are convenient, reliable, safe and affordable.
“DART is the envy of many public transit systems around the country, boasting the longest light rail system in the nation with one of the country’s most aggressive expansion programs.”
John Danish, Chairman of the DART Board, predicted that the Orange Line’s access to DFW Airport will be an economic boon to the Las Colinas Urban Center.
“In December 2014, the Orange Line will extend to directly serve DFW Airport,” Danish said. “That means not only will Irving and Las Colinas be linked to the DART Rail System that carries 22.3 million people per year, it will literally be directly linked to the entire world.
“It will mean that more top-notch conferences and events will come right here to the Irving Convention Center. The world’s top cultural talent will be one flight and one short train ride from a vibrant community. I can envision world-class shopping just minutes away for travelers who have a layover at DFW.
“DART and the city of Irving are both in the right place at the right time to make a real difference in the way our region functions. Not only are we improving mobility and getting cars off the roadways; we’re part of a radical transformation in lifestyles and in urban planning.”
Having been a supporter of mass transit for many years, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison expressed her enthusiasm for DART’s newest light rail line.
“The leadership of DART from the beginning has been so good,” Hutchison said. “We haven’t had a line that wasn’t on time and under budget.
“The city of Irving is now connected to the magnificent venues of the Dallas Arts district, the concerts and sporting events at the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Zoo, hospitals, shopping districts and much more.
“Residents throughout the DART Service Area are likewise connected to the burgeoning Las Colinas vicinity, an area that will see multi-use development dollars estimated in the billions over the coming years.”
Irving’s Mayor Beth Van Duyne discussed the Orange Line’s value to commuters.
“Las Colinas alone is home to more than 2,000 companies,” Van Duyne said. “Employees from such top-notch firms as ExxonMoblil, Kimberly-Clark, Fluor and Research in Motion will now have the option to get to and from work without sitting in gridlock traffic.
“Irving residents who work in downtown Dallas or along the U.S. 75 corridor in Richardson and Plano will likewise be able to commute by rail.
“The table is now set for further development in the Las Colinas Urban Center. The infrastructure is in place for the condos, office facilities and hotels that already make the area so vibrant to be augmented by retail, restaurants and entertainment facilities. What an opportunity we have!”
While attending the ceremonies for the Orange Line, State Representative Linda Harper-Brown praised the vision of the DART management.
“The Orange Line will provide Irving residents and students at the University of Dallas unprecedented access to jobs, medical services and cultural offerings throughout the region,” Harper-Brown said. “Irving residents and students now have an alternative to bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“The Orange Line positions Irving firmly in the vanguard of American cities that are embracing transit – not just as a mobility solution but as a lifestyle choice.”