Tuesday, July 13, 2010

West Sacramento still pursues streetcar

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West Sacramento, Calif., surprised many political analysts on Election Day 2008 by voting to tax itself in order to establish a 1.2-mile streetcar line, designed in part to link to larger neighbor Sacramento’s light rail transit system. But the small city failed to secure any of the $130 million awarded by the federal government July 8 for streetcar development.

West Sacramento officials say they will continue their efforts to build a streetcar line connecting to Sacramento over the Tower Bridge despite failing Thursday in a bid for federal funds. Still, “This is terribly disappointing,” Mayor Christopher Cabaldon acknowledged.

Federal officials have indicated they may offer streetcar grants again next year, and West Sacramento officials said they are likely to apply. The city had sought $25 million (the maximum awarded by the Federal Transit Administration under the Urban Circulator Grant Program) for its initial line, which would run from West Sacramento City Hall down West Capitol Avenue, over the Tower Bridge, and terminate near Old Sacramento.

FTA and the Department of Transportation awarded $130 million in streetcar grants to five cities: Dallas, Fort Worth, Tex., St. Louis, Charlotte, N.C., and Cincinnati. They were among 65 cities, including West Sacramento, that had applied for the money.

Sacramento, the state capital, also is studying reintroducing streetcars to its streets. Officials say they view the electric rail system as a way to ease congestion, reduce reliance on cars, and mitigate parking problems in congested areas.