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."

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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.

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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