Loop Trolley System to Connect Forest Park Attractions with University City Loop Businesses
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by Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), July 9, 2010 - The announcement of nearly $25 million for the Loop Trolley System linking Forest Park to the University City Loop culminated a decade of work by a strong coalition of supporters.
Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill restaurant, Pin-Up Bowl, and the Pageant Building, organized the St. Louis Trolley Company (LTC) with the help of Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT).
CMT secured a grant from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments and the Missouri Department of Transportation to purchase and renovate two historic vehicles for the new line. The trolleys are currently on display in front of the Missouri History Museum and Commerce Bank in The Loop.
The official announcement was made by Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Policy Roy Kienitz at a press conference attended by Congressional Reps. Russ Carnahan and Wm. Lacy Clay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.
"When I came to Congress in 2005, I fought to get on the Transportation Committee," stated Congressman Carnahan. "It's been vital to our region and in that first year we got the highway bill passed with authorizing language for this project. At that time people thought this was an idea that was long and hard to reach. It's a thrill to see this idea become a reality."
In a conversation following the press conference, Edwards was eager to comment on the Loop Trolley system.
"Our work on this project is a unique and innovative public-private partnership in which the Loop Trolley Company has brought together the City of St. Louis, University City, St. Louis County, Washington University, Missouri History Museum and a consortium of local philanthropy and business interests," stated Edwards.
As traffic cruised by and people walked along tree shaded sidewalks, Edwards explained that loop trolleys will be hybrid electric/battery vehicles that offer clean, convenient and accessible alternatives to driving between major activity centers.
"The 2.2 mile trolley will connect two MetroLink station with a wide variety of retail, educational, cultural and entertainment venues. It will reinforce the pedestrian environment and support historic neighborhoods," he emphasized.
"It can be an environmentally positive attraction, it can be a prototype and source of pride for the entire metropolitan area. It can connect neighborhoods and make the community more liveable. It will also help retain young professionals that sometimes slip away from St. Louis," he said pointing to the nearby apartment buildings. "They are going to have more opportunities to get around without a car. They are very self-conscious of environmental issues."
Although critics have already cast doubt on the project, supporters believe that the Loop Trolley system will be the engine to spur economic development along this former streetcar corridor and accelerate the ongoing revitalization of the area east of the Loop near Forest Park.
When asked if the $25 million might be considered a waste of money, Edwards responded quickly that the money is small compared to the impact it is going to have on St. Louis. "First of all, this money was put aside by Congress over a year ago specifically for Urban Circulation. There was strong competition with cities and other states. We were one of only five cities who received streetcar or trolley money," he smiled proudly.
Edward said that a fixed-track vintage trolley system can be built in a first-class manner which will add to the quality of life and increase tourism.
"People who think of the trolley as a means of just getting a person from one point to another are missing the point," he continued. "Because of the fixed-track nature, it draws investment in the area. They are projecting 450 new residential structures in the next five years and a lot more commercial development including office and retail."
The Delmar Loop was named after the Delmar Streetcar system that provided service for visitors and residents to University City in the early 1900s. Today streetcars are making strong comebacks in cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Kenosha, Memphis, Charlotte and Dallas.
Living up to his fond moniker, 'Mayor of the Loop', Edwards beamed when he spoke of the potential impact on tourism. "We can look at other cities and see the benefits that trolleys have provided in every way. We are really lucky to be in this position right now. People want to live next to clean, electric transit. We need to stabilize the central corridor to make St. Louis great again."
The Loop Trolley project is estimated to create about 350 direct construction jobs. The design and construction is expected to begin in 2011 with the trolley opening sometime in 2012.
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