DART threatens D2 rail line if funding diverted to pension

- Dallas Area Rapid Transit is threatening to scale back the downtown Dallas subway plan, in favor of suburban rail to DFW Airport, if Dallas is able to divert 1/8 of 1 cent of its transit funding to the struggling Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Last September, Addison city officials joined others from the northern suburbs to lobby DART for new light rail on the Cotton Belt Line running through Plano, Richardson, and Carrollton, then on to DFW airport.

But some on the Dallas City Council think a portion of the city's contribution to DART would be better spent solving their city's most pressing problem.

"The City of Dallas is subsidizing transportation in the suburbs," Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs.  "As a result of that, the suburbs are able to provide higher salaries to police and firefighters and with the crisis, we have right now with the pension fund it's turning into a public safety crisis.  I believe we have to keep Dallas taxpayer money in Dallas.">>

The city council holds its regular update on the ailing police and fire pension fund Wednesday.

Councilman Griggs is looking for support to take 1/8th of each penny of sales tax that's dedicated to DART - about $35 to 40 million per year - and give it to the pension fund.

The DART board held a public meeting tonight - talking about another long-range goal - an underground line in downtown Dallas.  DART says both the Cotton Belt and the D2 underground line can be built - but not if Dallas cuts its funding.

"If Dallas were to cut its contribution, the cuts are going to happen in Dallas," according to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons.  He calls the proposal a terrible idea and one that would likely stall the downtown project, not the suburbs' Cotton Belt project.

"There's no reason to punish a suburban city that continues to make its investment," Lyons said.

The Dallas tax money diversion plan would require the Texas Legislature to enable the city to hold a special election and let voters decide.

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