St. Louis — Construction Starts Soon
Rail Transit Online, April 2012
With almost all of the needed $43 million committed to the project, the Loop Trolley line hopes to be under construction by late 2012. The 2.2-mile line will connect the Delmar Loop to Forest Park and could be running by late 2013.
Historic, restored streetcars will be used and will take power from overhead wires, just as St. Louis first generation streetcars did until their demise in 1966.
Project champion Joe Edwards, a business owner in the Loop district, has been promoting the idea of a streetcar line since 1997. He told stltoday.com, "It really is back to the future, and an opportunity for the future. St. Louis will be one of the leaders."
Two ex-Milan, Italy streetcars, built to a design inspired by Philadelphia trolleys of the 1920s, are on hand and are being displayed on Delmar in the Loop and outside the Missouri History Museum on Lindell Boulevard. The cars cost about $600,000, an amount that is about one-third of hybrid battery electric cars once considered for the line. Five more cars from the line are being sought.
Funding to build the line includes $25 million from the Federal Urban Circulator grant program, $6 million from other Federal programs, $3.5 million in tax increment funds, another $3.5 million from Federal New Markets tax credits, and as much as $5 million in private donations.
Backers hope the line will extend the Loop entertainment district further east and to connect the area with MetroLink light rail at Delmar and DeBaliviere stations. Another hope is that the line will bring tourists to the areas and reduce traffic congestion.
Others are afraid that streetcars operating in mixed traffic will hold up auto traffic and reduce parking opportunities.
Several nationally-known transit consulting firms are working on the project. Stone Consulting of Warren, PA, is project manager while CH2M Hill of St. Louis and URS of San Francisco are developing the design.
Since its inception, the project has involved both public and private parties, and that model is expected to continue. Joe Edwards and Citizens for Modern Transit incorporated a nonprofit named Loop Trolley Company 11 years ago to build support and raise money.
Later St. Louis and University City approved levying a 1 percent sales tax on businesses along the route in what became known as the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District. The district will oversee construction of the line and bringing it into operation, and will assume ownership of the system.
The annual operating budget is expected to be about $1.3 million. It is anticipated that $500,000 will come from the special sales tax, $600,000 from passenger fares, $150,000 from advertizing, and $50,000 from sponsorships or other subsidies.