DART weighs options for access to Lake Highlands rail station

Will it be a sea of red at Thursday night’s community meeting at the Lake Highlands North Recreation Center? That’s what the folks behind the Save White Rock Trail website have planned, with a home page entreaty to "wear Wildcat red to show DART we want them to stop access on White Rock Trail."

Access to the soon-to-be-built Lake Highlands DART rail station will be the major topic of discussion at Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting, according to DART’s David Ehrlicher. The meeting will overview possible access from White Rock Trail, possible access from Walnut Hill, the city’s plans for the trail system right around the Lake Highlands Town Center development, and possible shared parking between DART and the town center developer on the west side.

Though some neighbors are adamantly against any access to the station from White Rock Trail, other neighbors favor it (as mentioned on Back Talk Lake Highlands last week), and DART plans to hear everyone out. "We’re not going to build access on the north side [of Walnut Hill] until all other pieces come into place," Ehrlicher says, mentioning the city’s consideraton of a trail on the east side of the station paralleling White Rock Trail. He notes that if the city "gets all of it plans together — funding, easements — we’re open to a conection on the east side. We’re listening to the community and want to explore other ways, too."

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More on the options DART is considering, after the jump:

A committee of Lake Highlands North HOA neighbors suggested to DART that a better option would be allowing pedestrian and bicycle access from Walnut Hill, perhaps from the sidewalk to the east of the bridge that arches over the Lake Highlands Town Center property. Ehrlicher says DART is looking at how pedestrians and cyclists could get from that point down low to the south end of the rail station.

One concern, of course, would be drivers stopping to drop people off along Walnut Hill. Ehrlicher says DART wants to "make sure we don’t encourage bad behavior" on such a busy street. Issues also exist with the property just north and south of Walnut Hill where the access point could feasibly be placed — the city owns property on one side, and the other side belongs to a private property owner, but Ehrlicher says DART hopes to figure out the logistics of a Walnut Hill access point by the end of the summer.

In terms of east side access, for those who are concerned about trail users and station boarders parking along White Rock Trail, one way to mitigate that is for DART and Prescott Realty, which is developing the town center, to provide parking on the west side, Ehrlicher says. One of the reasons plans went forward with a park and ride model at the Lake Highlands DART rail station (it’s being referred to as a "kiss and ride", or a place where people might be dropped off to board the DART) is because the closest stations — LBJ to the north and White Rock to the south — have parking that is used only at about half to 65 percent capacity. But Ehrlicher says DART is willing to reengage Prescott on the issue of parking. DART has space in its west side right-of-way with room for roughly 30 to 50 spots, Ehrlicher says, and if usage would show a demand for more parking, "we could talk to Prescott about shared parking in a parking structure in their final stages of development."

Bottom line, Ehrlicher says: "Access is good — let’s just figure out what the safest, most convenient places for that access is." It might end up being all of the above, rather than either-or, he notes.

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Not if the Save White Rock Trail folks get their way. Through a letter on the website, neighbors say they welcome promises of future parking, access from Walnut Hill, and a promise to work with residents in the future to avoid parking and traffic issues in the neighborhood. Even if all of this happens, though, they say that "we will not concede access to White Rock Trail."

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  • LH is home

    I agree with you Voice of Reason. I think WRT is just as dangerous to stop and let someone out as WH – people drive over that steep hill pretty fast. Another concern I have is that a lot of school kids walk up and down WRT in the mornings and afternoons. It’s strange to me to add a “pedestrain” access on a street that has no other pedestrian infrastructure.

  • Clay

    Will the Advocate be doing a pro/con analysis on this issue. I waded through both sides’ propoganda, but was interested to see if there were any other expected analysis forthcoming.

    I will say that I am troubled by the use of WRT, which is woefully under developed from an infrastucture standpoint. Please note, this is not a criticism. I live immediately off WRT (closer to Flag Pole Hill) and the lack of curb, gutters, shoulders, etc. was actually a draw to the neighborhood. We liked the ecclectic neighborhood versus the cookie cutter develpment.

    However, it seems to be a huge stretch to attempt to place a Dart station on the East side of the tracks. Why not simply wrap the whole thing into the LHTC?

    It seems that something similar to the NW Hwy facility would be appropriate off Walnut Hill as well.

    What am I missing (I am sure there is something obvious)?

  • Jim Jones

    I’m not surprised by the HOA’s reaction. As a member of my HOA, I was one of the few that supported the DART Blue Line early on. Our HOA’s claims of noise, etc. proved to be wrong. The HOA eventually worked cooperatively to get some improved landscaping after they realized they had no way to “stop a train”. As a downtown commuter, I find the DART Blue Line a wonderful asset for our area.

    I should point out that, with convient access to the station north & south of this proposed location,the only people likely to use this station are our LH neighbors. Adding the fact that the relatively close Mockingbird station provides access to both Blue Line & Red Line trains (a convenient option I frequently use as an alternative to the nearby LBJ/Skillman station), I doubt the added traffic will be that significant. I also remember our HOA protesting the location of the enormously successful LH Freshman Center citing traffic concerns that in actuality represent a minor inconvenience, at best.

    Ultimately, the Blue Line & the Freshman Center have improved our property values, in my opinion. I expect the LH Town Centre and the additional Blue Line Station will add similar value once completed.

    Jim Jones
    10360 White Rock Circle

  • Voice of Reason

    Dart does not “want to encourage bad behaviour on such a busy street” (Walnut Hill). Isnt that exactly why the Save WRT group is so upset? Arent they trying to keep that same expected bad behaviour off White Rock Trail, Covemeadow and Elmcrest?