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Memphis - February 2003
   

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Memphis — LRT Opposition

Rail Transit Online, February 2003

Strident opposition from the business community and residents along a portion of a proposed light rail line to the airport may force the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) to switch to an alternative route.  Both proposed options begin at the terminal of the Main Street Trolley extension that’s now under construction at the Medical Center on Madison Avenue.  Alternative 1 follows Madison/Cooper/Young/Airways/Plough to the airport and runs 10.4 mi. (16.7 km).  Alternative 2 cuts diagonally along Pauline/Somerville/Crump/Lamar until it reaches Airways and would be shorter at 9.3 mi. (15 km).   However the Cooper-Young Business Association is adamant against LRT and has organized a campaign to eliminate South Cooper Street and Young Avenue from the proposal.  “We are one of the city's best-organized business associations, and we are absolutely committed to stopping the light rail from coming through Cooper-Young,” association president Charlie Ryan told The Commercial Appeal.  He says merchants have worked for nearly two decades to revive the district, which is about 100 years old and had decayed during the 1960s and 70s.  Many store owners see no benefits to local businesses from light rail and instead fear that they would be economically devastated during construction.  There would also be loss of parking, restricted turns because LRVs would run in a protected median and possible changes in the historic streetscape.  MATA and its consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, appear willing to look elsewhere for a viable route.  “We're going to go back and do a little more research on the other options,” MATA Director Of Planning And Capital Projects Tom Fox told The Commercial Appeal.  “We don't want to ram anything down the community's throat.”   The airport line would be completed in 2008, cost about $400 million and use modern light rail vehicles instead of the vintage streetcars employed on the existing Main Street and Riverfront lines. 

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