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Loop Trolley Hearing Allows Citizens to Comment

The St. Louis History Museum hosted an informational question-and-answer session for the public concerning the Loop Trolley.

If Wednesday evening's at the Missouri History Museum is any indication, the Loop Trolley project spearheaded by owner and local business leader Joe Edwards has both supporters and skeptics.

The trolley, planned for construction in 2012 and opening in 2013, will transport riders along a route running down Delmar Boulevard from Trinity Avenue by the University City Lion's Gate to DeBaliviere Boulevard in St. Louis before turning south and ending at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. 

The hearing was held due to a federal requirement that community members be able to express their opinions and ask questions during a public commenting period.

"A lot of people want to know the basics," said Maggie Hales, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments Deputy Executive Director. "We're actually recording every comment verbatim. We'll write them down and analyze them. For those that are substantive, we will work with the federal government to address them."

At 6 p.m., CH2M HILL consultant Tim Page gave a presentation about the design and program management firm's environmental assessment of the trolley project.

"What started as an idea in 1995 grew into a concept paper in 1997 and then into a feasibility study in 2000," Page said.

The electricity-and-battery-powered trolleys would run 360 days a year, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. A 50 percent discount will apply for seniors and low-income users.  According the Page, the assessment confirmed the trolleys would not create an excess amount of noise or vibrations, be unsafe in traffic or create an eyesore.

The Loop Trolley system would require a single wire to charge the trolleys' batteries, unlike the more complicated arrangement of electrical wires over MetroLink trains, Page said.

"This is much more simple and austere than that," he said.

Following the presentation, Hales moderated an approximately 45-minute commenting session transcribed by a court reporter.

After a few compliments, questions and concerns raised by community leaders and residents generally supporting the trolley concept, including St. Louis Ward 26 Alderman Frank Williamson, University City resident Andrew Wool deflated the room with a skeptical viewpoint.

Since the trolley will use a single track for two-way traffic in the Delmar Loop portion of the route, Wool anticipated that adding a trolley to the already congested street would make travel difficult.

"It will be a traffic nightmare from the lion at City Hall to Skinker," Wool said.

Wool protested the trolley project with signs before and after the hearing outside the museum with a group of three friends. He also criticized the effort as a "misappropriation of funds," pandering to Delmar Loop visitors.

"We should be more concerned about the citizens in the community than the tourists who are going to come once and spend a buck," Wool said. "The Loop is already saturated with businesses."

The City of University City's time and money would be better spent preventing schools from closing and police officers from being laid off, Wool said. 

According to a chart referenced in the hearing, the total project would cost $43 million at maximum. This figure includes a $25 million federal grant -- the lion's share -- and smaller portions from new market tax credits, other federal sources, TIF monetizations and private donations.

Lifelong University City resident Jack Frohlichstein spoke after Wool and echoed his sentiments.

"I don't see why we need a trolley," Frohlichstein said. "We used to have trolleys, but why is this one not going to fail where the other one failed?"

Joe Edwards later countered that in conjunction with the MetroLink, the trolley would help University City and St. Louis residents cut down on transportation expenses by taking another step toward eliminating their need for a car.

In addition to saving on gas, repairs and insurance, relying less on cars means higher air quality, Edwards said.

Mass transit enthusiast and blogger Justin Chick spoke to University City Patch before the presentation began. Chick felt frustrated by the amount of resistance from residents against building more rail infrastructure in St. Louis.

"It's the way that our city has grown up," Chick said. "It doesn't lend itself to a pedestrian environment ... The way that the region has grown up with sprawl, in the short term it seems easier to develop for personal vehicles. In the long term, that's not sustainable."

Those who wish to submit comments may submit them at looptrolley.org or email them to Hales at looptrolleyinfo@ewgateway.org. The deadline for comments is May 5.

Paul Gill April 21, 2011 at 09:45 PM
I'm in favor of progress and making the Loop area vibrant and a wonderful place to dine and shop. But, I don't understand the logic of the route, or the need for a trolley. If the trolley starts at the lions gate, who exactly is the trolley catering too? You are already in the loop when you pick it up, and going to the history museum seems to drop you off/pick you up in an area that is already served by the metro link. You can already take the metro and get dropped off close to the loop anyway. Who is the target market for this trolley? It doesn't seem to be anything that would greatly benefit the residents of UCity. I certainly wouldn't want a trolley if it comes attached to increased taxes to support it's operation. I don't want to see a bill in the future entitled "SAVE THE TROLLEY".
Cheryl Young April 21, 2011 at 10:49 PM
I am not in favor of this at all. I live on Kingsbury Place and see this as a nightmare for us as we try to get out of Kingsbury Place on to Debaliever. Can anyone promise me this will not cause congestion. I just don't see how this is going to work with out traffic problems.
Michelle April 22, 2011 at 01:49 AM
Why can't the trolley really make a "Loop" and include Olive Blvd. as well?
Herbie Markwort April 22, 2011 at 01:30 PM
The trolley won't cause any additional congestion. It's in essense no different than a bus. An additional 3-6 vehicles per hour will not be a problem. Cheryl, you will have zero problems getting on to De Baliviere. The Trolley will be in its own dedicated lane on the opposite side is the street from where you live.
Holston Black Jr. April 22, 2011 at 03:48 PM
I have long advocated putting a bridge or a viaduct over Delmar's loop section in order to make it better. I see improvements with more businesses being under the bridge and everything being open everyday in spite of inclement weather. With heaters and fans making a year round comfortable environment, similar to the underground in Atlanta. My idea probably could stand a little tweaking but it won't add to the congestion like the trolley with no additional financial rewards for us taxpayers. The trolley going over the loop might become a moneymaker.
Tom Crouch April 22, 2011 at 10:38 PM
I think the Loop Trolley is an exciting project, which will provide many benefits to the Delmar/Debaliviere area of University City and St. Louis! Having enjoyed a similar trolley line in Portland, OR and the famous cable cars of San Francisco, I believe it will add a new level of excitement/uniqueness to our own Loop. This will help attract new visitors to one of St. Louis's truly urban commercial areas, generating more successful businesses along the vacant or underdeveloped areas of Delmar to the east of the Wabash Station Metrolink stop. We are living in a time of economic hardship and escalating gas prices. Therefore, creating economic activity and jobs and catering to pedestrian traffic seem to be prudent goals.
H Wills April 24, 2011 at 12:48 PM
The Trolley is exciting. It might cause some congestion. But we won't know until we try. Hopefully it will add more stops and starts around areas such as Olive like the lady said earlier. I don't think you will need to have a lower price for low income families. Why bother doing this? How will people prove this anyway? The Trolley will be packed. I would have seen how well it did before introducing that.
Michelle April 25, 2011 at 01:13 AM
I think adding a couple of spots on Olive would really help kickstart the redevelopment that Olive needs. Come on, why not?

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