Tuesday, February 26, 2013

St. Louis ponders downtown streetcar system

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Citizen advocates in St. Louis are advancing a streetcar plan to connect the city's downtown with the Central West End as part of an economic development plan.

URS Corp. is doing a $200,000 streetcar feasibility study paid for by the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis. Preliminary cost estimates for the project, initially consisting of two lines, fall between $219 million and $270 million.

Partnership President Maggie Campbell told local media the project could be funded from federal sources (possibly New Starts money) and a property tax based on proximity to the project.

Campbell said the streetcar idea resulted in part from St. Louis University's decision to relocate its law school from midtown to downtown; discussion of operating shuttle buses to and from the new site evolved to include a streetcar alternative.

One proposed line would loop on a single track through the middle of downtown to Kiener Plaza. West of 14th Street, a two-track line would traverse Olive Street and Lindell Boulevard through Grand Center to Taylor Avenue and the Central West End MetroLink station.

A second line would run between MetroLink light rail transit service at Civic Center station and St. Louis Avenue along 14th Street and North Florissant Avenue.

As is common in many North American cities with an already established transit agency, Metro Transit-St. Louis so far has declined to comment on the streetcar, despite the potential synergies a streetcar might offer to the agency's Metrobus and MetroLink LRT operations.

St. Louis streetcar service lasted longer than in many U.S. cities, coming to an end in May 1966.