Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lancaster, Pa., seeks grant for streetcar study

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Lancaster, Pa.’s City Council has agreed to seek a $20,000 from its namesake county to fund a study of a proposed $14.1 million, 2-6 mile streetcar line.

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The proposal, which first gained traction in 2007 (RA, Oct. 2007, p. 19),  is supported by the non-profit Lancaster Alliance, which includes 15 of the city’s businesses, and by Mayor Richard Grey, who believes the city’s population density can support such a system. Both the Alliance and the Mayor's office are also representatives of the non-profit Lancaster Streetcar Co., which seeks to advance the project.

Hedging its position, however, the City Council stressed that the request for study funds was not in itself an endorsement of the streetcar project. Similarly, Randy Patterson, city Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization director, said the city is seeking the funds from the county's Urban Enhancement Grant program to look at the economic and engineering feasibility of the proposal. "Neither of them has been adequately addressed," Patterson said.

The county grant program requires a dollar-for-dollar match, Patterson said. The streetcar study application is one of three city officials will submit.

A survey released last month by the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, conducted for the Lancaster Streetcar Co., found that nearly 80% of respondents chose an electric streetcar on rail, traveling a set loop, as their attendees’ preferred mode of downtown transportation versus walking, city bus, taxi, orrental car.