ST. LOUIS –(KMOX)–County Executive Charlie Dooley voiced strong concerns about a plan to build a $270 million light rail trolley downtown, warning it might conflict with his dream of expanding Metrolink to Westport or North Park.
The plan discussed at the East-West Gateway Council features a trolley on rails that would run on Olive Street from the Central West End to downtown, then shoot north on 14th street to north St. Louis
“It could conceivably be in conflict with what we’re doing as we move forward, the Westport deal” Dooley said, “And plus, St. Louis County is paying more than anybody to the Metro for operation.”
Mayor Francis Slay sent a letter of support to the council saying the project would spur an estimated $540 million in development in its first five years of operation, and perhaps $2 billion over 20 years.
Reaction from council was lukewarm with Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider questioning why it couldn’t be done cheaper with a rubber tire trolley.
Backers say trolleys on rails have a better record of sparking development, because you can’t pick up the tracks and leave.
In addition to the construction cost of $270 million, the downtown trolley would cost $10 million annually to operate. Supporters estimate half of the money might come from the federal government, none from the state and the rest from a transportation development district — funds generated from “property owners along the alignment .”
An estimated 7,700 passengers would be expected to ride the downtown trolley during a typical business day.
A motion to authorize an environmental impact study costing $1.5 million died for lack of a second. Then everyone agreed to table the downtown trolley until next meeting, when Slay could have his say.
Slay was in Jefferson City, testifying before lawmakers in support of more tax breaks for developer Paul McKee, whose north St. Louis redevelopment project has been tied up in court two years.