Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Coppell—Curious community members filled The Sound at Cypress Waters a few weeks ago as Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) held a community outreach meeting about the proposed Cotton Belt “Silver Line” Project.

Speakers included John Rhone, DART vice president of capital design and construction, and Allan Zreet, managing principle at Jacobs Engineering Group.

The 26-mile Cotton Belt Corridor project as a whole was discussed, but the meeting focused on the Cypress Waters station, which is in the development stages.

“Essentially, when you consider the Cotton Belt Silver Line regional railroad project, it’s not just 26 miles, it is 62 miles,” John Rhone said. “This regional transportation system will allow you to travel from Plano to Fort Worth. That’s the way we really want to present it and present this regional railroad to you.”

There will be eight vehicles created for the Silver Line Project. Five will be in use at a time, and will one ready to go onto the tracks. The other two vehicles will be in the maintenance area.

“This vehicle is something that’s different than what you’ve seen in our Trinity Railway Express Way,” Rhone said. “This is an actual diesel locomotive. It requires an engine in order to move the car. It is a separate vehicle has an engineer operating the vehicle.

“Essentially, it will take less than an hour to get from DFW Airport to Plano. Our numbers show right now one way would be 58 minutes, and the opposite way would be 57 minutes. We will continue to work on the model as we continue to develop the design. Overall, the goal is for the trip from Plano to the DFW International Airport to be less than one hour.”

The vehicles will be able to carry as many as 230 passengers and will have a few design changes from DART’s Light Rail system.

“One of the unique features is it will have automatic passenger counting powers,” Rhone said. “This vehicle can carry more passengers than the light rail. It will have a closed circuit TV system available inside and outside of the vehicle. The vehicle will have locations for bicycle racks allowing riders to store their bicycles.

“You will be able to walk from one end to the opposite end. The lighting throughout this is something that we’ve utilized. We want to make sure we have adequate lighting available. The strip running lights are along the passages. And you can have compartments for storage. If you are traveling from the airport or to work or wherever your destination is, then you have areas for storage.

“I invite you to take a trip along the light rail, and it will give you a very good idea of what the finished product for the DART Silver Line [will be].”

A concern for the community members is noise control for the project.

“It is really important they do everything possible to mitigate the noise, and all the other impacts,” Robert Weatherford, homeowner in the Carter Estates Residential Community in Coppell, said. “There is going to be an overpass across Beltline. That’s the main entrance into Coppell in the south. Having that look really nice is going to be important. There are some residential areas there. With the trains running 15 minutes one direction or the other during peak periods with high speeds. It is going to have a major impact on people. It’s going to be really important the sound is mitigated.”

“This vehicle is a lot quieter,” Rhone said. “It already met all of the noise requirements we placed into the specifications. We will continue to address any plans to keep it quieter.

“We are looking at options for the wheel skirts for the under body. There is a different sound mitigation utilized in the engine compartments that will address the noise.”

Each station will have a unique design element, according to Allan Zreet. The Cypress Waters station’s theme will be water.

“This station is kind of out there on its own right now, but the land around it is set for development,” Zreet said.

The artistic design process has begun for the Cypress Waters and DFW North stations.

“The Downtown Plano station includes art design with custom railings around the platform representing some of the elements of downtown Plano,” Zreet said. “The functional elements designed to be specific to the station, like a guardrails or barriers, can be dealt with by the artist and the design team.” 

Community committees comprised of around 12 people represent the community and businesses around stations.

“The community committees are helping us decide whether or not we want to put additional money into those some of those finishes, or spend that money on a specific piece of artwork,” Zreet said. “DART has dedicated a $140,000 budget toward artwork for the station. The community gets to decide whether to spend all that on a specific sculpture or to use that to upgrade some of the elements of the station.

“Each station has a station artist. The artists are coming in with ideas on how to represent [communities] in materials, ideas, and sculptures. Chris and Judy who are working on the Cypress Waters station are working with a team of folks on ideas to bring back to the community. The DFW North station is more of a connection to Grapevine and uses the vineyards showing the history there. 

A planned future addition to the Silver Line railway will be new DART bus routes.

“One of the things they look at as we implement this new service is our bus service and how it fits into the system,” Rhone said. “When we brought the light rail system to DFW International Airport, we revamped our bus system to have those connections to the station from certain locations. It’s not only the miles, it is the last mile.”

Homeowner Robert Weatherford said he is glad DART is communicating with the communities about the new rail system.

“I think it was good information,” Weatherford said. “I think they’re trying to communicate with people and do what they can. It’s going to have a massive impact on a lot of people.”