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Streetcar Proposal to be Discussed in St. Louis

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(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A street car line connecting downtown St. Louis to the Central West End has been pushed as a development tool worth hundreds of millions, but an analyst with the CATO institute says its no such thing.

In his analysis “The Great Streetcar conspiracy” CATO Scholar Randal O’Toole calls them slow. “You can actually walk faster than the street car if you’re trying to get to your destination on time,” said O’Toole.

He also said they are not fuel efficient and not the magnet for development they are touted to be.

“You spend a hundred million dollars to two hundred million dollars building a street car line you’ll have to follow it up with 500-million dollars worth of subsidies if you want to get development.” O’toole told KMOX’s Mark Reardon.

He points to Portland as an example, where he says, no businesses located near the line until the subsidies were given. He adds with a cost of 30-to-40 million dollars per track mile its no deal.

O’toole said there are now some fifty cities hoping to get federal dollars to help them build a street car line after the Obama Administration loosened the rules.

Earlier on KMOX:

On Tuesday March 5th KMOX interviewed the President of the Lawrence Group Steve Smith, a supporter of the street car line.

The system that would connect downtown St. Louis to Grand Center, SLU. the Central West End and BJC has already passed a feasibility study and now faces a year long environmental study.

“This would not take a nickle from the current Metro operating budget or capitol budget.” said Smith. He says funding for such a fixed rail system that would tie in major employers, entertainment, dining and residences, along a seven mile route, would come partially from some form of funding from the property owners or the people who live close to the line. He says the feds could put up 50% of the construction cost.

For them , and the city, he says the payoff would be very profitable. He says we’ll know more about the cost of such a street car line but right now it appears to be between 220-and 270 million to build.

St. Louis residents can get more information on the Streetcar concept from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday March 7 at the Moto Museum on Olive Street.

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