By Keith Laing - 08/19/14 12:37 PM EDT
The Department of Transportation is touting the extension of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail system to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
It began carrying passengers to the Dallas airport on its Orange Line on Monday morning.
Federal Transit Administration chief Therese McMillan said the light rail extension would make it easier for airline passengers to reach the Dallas airport, which is the fourth busiest in the U.S.
"That’ll make North Texas more attractive and more competitive as an international destination for businesses and tourists and help the area build on the success of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s light rail," she continued.
The DART Orange Line was extended nearly five miles from its existing terminal station at Belt Line Road at a cost of about $150 million.
The DART system is the largest light rail network in the U.S., in terms of route mileage. With the addition of the Dallas airport station, the system includes 90 miles of track and 61 stations.
McMillan said the construction of the transit system over the last two decades has boosted the Dallas economy.
"Earlier this year, the University of North Texas released a study that only confirms what many local have seen for themselves: in the last decade alone, the $4.7 billion that local, state, and federal partners have invested in expanding DART Rail has returned $7.4 billion in economic activity, created tens of thousands of local jobs, and supported over $3 billion in salaries, wages, and benefits," she wrote.
McMillan added that the expansion of the system through the years would not have been possible with support from the federal government.
"The Federal Transit Administration was there to support that first step and we and our colleagues at the Federal Aviation Administration were part of this most recent milestone, as well," she wrote.
In fact, it’s only through the sustained commitment of the federal government that projects like DART Rail are possible," McMillan continued. "Without it, communities with vision like North Texas, who are determined to control their own growth and not be controlled by it, could see those ambitions falter."
Despite being the nation's largest light rail system, DART currently carries about 98,300 passengers on an average weekday, making it only the seventh busiest light rail system in the U.S.