Birmingham — Streetcar Proposal
Rail Transit Online, November 2004
Jefferson County Commission President Larry Langford
has revived a plan for a downtown electric streetcar system to help
revitalize the central city. Congress has already set aside $87 million for
rapid transit in Birmingham but it has remained unused because local
officials could not agree on a project. Under terms of the grant, the
metropolitan area would only have to contribute 20 percent of the capital
cost. Lawmakers appeared enthusiastic for Landford’s plan. “I think it's a
great idea,” Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins told The Birmingham News.
“I see this as a way to get people to come down to shop in an atmosphere
that is better than a mall.” Langford planned to hold a meeting with
Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid to suggest a partnership between the county
and city. Langford claimed some of the tracks from the system scrapped
years ago could be used again. “We can start downtown and work our way
out,” the commissioner told The Birmingham News. “These tracks run
to Graymont, Irondale, East Thomas and East Lake. We have about 300 mi.
(482.8 km) of track, and 90 percent of it is still there, with asphalt over
it.” Langford said deteriorated track would have to be replaced, modern
streetcars purchased and a traction power system installed. Two years ago,
a $585-million mass transit proposal that would include a downtown streetcar
system and a five-corridor network of HOV lanes was accepted by a
subcommittee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (see RTOL, Sept.
2002). The plan was developed as part of a $2.5-million study by
transportation consultant STV Inc. The streetcar portion was estimated to
cost $100 million, not including an extension from Southside to Homewood,
possibly via a one-mi. (1.6 km), $88-million tunnel through Red Mountain.