Monday, November 12, 2012

Fiscal swap eyed for San Antonio streetcar

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A swap of fiscal contributions may aid a proposed streetcar plan in San Antonio, Tex., overseen by VIA Metropolitan Transit.

The agency has been hampered by political debate over language forbidding funding for light rail transit (LRT), and streetcar opponents say such language also applies to streetcars as well.

But streetcar backers, including VIA, Bexar County, and San Antonio have proposed swapping the $92 million from the Advanced Transportation District, funding by a one-quarter cent sales tax approved in 2004, with available state funds. By so doing, the streetcar could tap state funds, while the transportation district funds could be applied to local and county road projects.

The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the state funds available for public transit development, has agreed to consider the proposal.

At present, the proposed $190 million streetcar plan accounts for the lion's share of VIA's $239 million transportation plan.

Last year VIA Metropolitan Transit hired HNTB Corp. as a program manager to determine plans for an urban rail line. San Antonio, population 1.33 million, is the largest city in Texas without an urban rail transit system.