Thursday, February 3, 2011
Denton’s A-Train on track for June opening
The A-train will shuttle passengers along a 21.3-mile stretch between downtown Denton and south Lewisville.
With roughly 60 percent of construction done, Denton County Transit Authority’s A-Train project is well on its way to completion.
DCTA has partnered with the city to help the project come together. The agency has taken the responsibility of constructing the rail platforms, canopy and tracks. The city has focused on the construction of the Downtown Denton Transit Center, an 8,800 sq. foot facility that will maintain retail space, office space and DCTA’s bus operations department.
Tom LeBeau, the vice president of rail development and capital projects for DCTA, said the project is making good progress and is still set to be complete by June 2011.
“The rail platform has been completely poured out, and the station platform canopy has been erected,” LeBeau said. “We still have yet to build the track — that will be forthcoming over the course of the next three to four months.”
The A-train will shuttle passengers along a 21.3-mile stretch between downtown Denton and south Lewisville. Riders can connect to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s rail system to downtown Dallas from the connector station in Lewisville. There are only five miles of track yet to be built, LeBeau said. The Downtown Denton Transit Center is the final step of the project.
The current project budget is about $330 million and includes design, engineering, management, construction and vehicle costs.
Mark Nelson, director of Denton’s transportation department, oversees the project’s downtown transit center, expected open in April.
Located in what was until recently an old warehouse, the Downtown Denton Transit Center has been renovated in two parts.
One half of the building will include a heated and air-conditioned bus passenger waiting area, a ticket office, retail space and restroom facilities. The other side will contain space for bus operations, bus supervisors, administration offices and a community room for DCTA use.
“It will also include the bus lane, the bus shelters and we’ll also have a clock tower to create a focal point not only for the transit center, but also the adjacent rail platform,” Nelson said.
DCTA has partnered with its sister agency, DART, to make sure ticket sales are consistent with one another. Regional passes sold on the DCTA system would also be recognized on DCTA, DART and Fort Worth’s TRE and T systems — all agencies use the same ticketing machine. Should DCTA upgrade to a smart-car type system in the future, LeBeau said the ticketing system would make for an easier transition.
Unlike the DART system, the DCTA will not operate light rail. The A-train will be a diesel-powered, stainless steel rail car fashioned in a 1950s style. However, LeBeau said, DCTA is in the process of procuring some of the latest technology to implement brand new diesel multiple units in the future.
“Eleven brand new DMU vehicles from Stafford Rail Car, a company in Switzerland, will start to arrive in August of this year,” LeBeau said. “Once tested and certified, we’ll start to integrate that into our system — springtime of 2012 is our goal.”
Cherilyn Hendricks, an education senior, said she commutes to UNT from Lewisville and has considered using the A-train if it could help her save a buck.
“Being a student isn’t cheap,” Hendricks said. “I’ve racked up a ton of miles on my car driving back and forth. [The A-train] could save a lot on gas.”
DCTA is currently trying to coordinate with UNT administration to accommodate students riding the A-train using their UNT student ID. LeBeau said all parties are doing the best they can to come to an agreement. DCTA officials have said they would ultimately like to see the ID become a regional pass.
“We’re not there yet. We’re working toward that with the UNT administration and we’re very hopeful that we can come to an agreement to make that happen for the students,” LeBeau said.
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