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El Paso - August 2012

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El Paso, TX —  West Side Extension Rejected

August 2012

El Paso City Council met Tuesday and killed the idea of a westside extension to a proposed single-track 5.2 mile loop line (on parallel streets) that would link the Mexican border area, downtown and the University of Texas-El Paso campus.

The council appears to support the rehabilitation of the city's PCCs that have been in storage since the early 1970s when service to Juarez, Mexico, ended and a Texas side only truncated line proved to be a flop.

These are air-electric cars that were purchased from San Diego in 1949 by El Paso City Lines, a National City Lines operation around 1950. Brookville Equipment Corp. provided PCC enthusiasts at El Paso with an estimate for rehab. But presumably only the car body shells would be reused with total conversion into an all-electric car, probably along the lines of work done with the PCC-II cars for Philadelphia SEPTA.

According to KFOX TV, city representative Courtney Niland said the system should pay for itself.

"We're going to look at the fact that there is a 9-1 return possibly. And along that particular corridor, you're going to be connecting (the University of Texas-El Paso), downtown El Paso. To me, you're going to see all kinds of development pop up," Niland said.

On September 11, according to the El Paso Times, the majority of council members selected the old streetcars as the preferred alternative type of vehicle to include in the proposed construction of a streetcar system. The city has a preliminary study underway that would enable application for a $90 million state grant to build the system. Reportedly the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission has committed to providing these funds once the city has conducted design and engineering of the system.

"To the greatest extent possible, we would like to stay true to El Paso's roots," said city Rep. Steve Ortega to the Times. "The idea of bringing the PCCs back that were in place from 1949 to 1974 is going to be met with great enthusiasm."

The estimated cost to restore one streetcar is between $1.6 million and $2.5 million and could take up to 18 months, compared with a price of about $1.2 million for a new replica streetcar which could be available in a year or less, Nannenga said. The city has about eight old streetcars, which are being stored in a desert area at the El Paso International Airport.

The City Council rejected several suggested extensions to the planned route in order to keep the price in the $90 million range.

The Council also approved raising the contract commitment to the URS Corp. to cover the final design, bidding, and construction phases of the project. The design is expected to be complete by February 2013.


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