IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) - A decades-long dream is nearing completion for Irving city officials.
On Monday, DART officially opens the new 'Orange Line' to Irving, terminating - for now - at the Irving Convention Center.
Originally, the Orange Line was going to bypass Las Colinas on the way to DFW Aiport, but over the years Irving officials lobbied to be a significant part of it. Now, they continue their planning around it.
Beyond the ceremony and the music and the smiles is the satisfaction of a long-deferred dream finally nearing fulfillment. "Just our funding alone in the Dart system equates to over a billion dollars," Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne told CBS 11.
Irving has been kicking in sales tax to DART since 1984. For nearly three decades, city leaders have counted on light rail's economic potential.
"We've done our building and multi-residence planning around what this system will bring. And for that we're really excited it's finally here," said the mayor.
The first leg of the line stretches from northwest Dallas, with stops at the University of Dallas and near the Las Colinas business district, before ending at the new Irving Convention Center. DART plans to have the line go all the way to DFW Airport by the end of 2014.
Rick Stopfer was on today's ceremonial run. "When you came into Irving, you could see the landscape that's been improved along there," the former Irving councilman said. He's helped shepherd the project for 20-years, the last 14 on the city council, and says development has already begun. "You can see the people taking pride in it you can see that they want the area to look good, they want to take advantage of it."
Stopfer points out more than 200,000 people already come to businesses in Irving daily. DART spokesman Mark Ball claims 'next gens' are on board. "They want to take advantage of light rail, so the fact that we've got this train now coming right near their condos and apartments, we're already hearing from them." He adds, "The square footage of office space is tremendous in the Irving area. So as it starts to grow that work base will be coming from other areas in the Metroplex to the area, and they'll be using public transit."
Maura Gast of the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau is upbeat too. "It is a game changer; it changes the landscape, it changes the dynamics....we have a huge workforce here that now has an easy access route in and out of the city."
While the complete route to DFW will be another few years, former councilman Stopfer says the airport is already ahead of the game. "When we get to the Belt Line Station, the airport has agreed to work with us on a shuttle service. So you'll actually be able to have a shuttle service from the airport to the Belt Line station January of next year."
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