The University City City Council heard from the Loop Trolley Company Monday, getting its first chance to formally question the planners as a council. The special council meeting was called specifically for the trolley update.
Doug Campion, project manager for the Loop Trolley Company, updated the Council on the current state of the plan before opening the floor to questions from the council and the public.
Not much has changed since the last presentation of the plan, except that the track configuration has changed to go to single track from Kingsland to Mehlville. Campion said the change to the 2.2 mile fixed track route was made after hearing input from the public. He also noted the width of the road shrinks at that intersection.
Campion addressed other public concerns, including questions of public safety and working with local police, fire and EMS districts along the route. He said that while a hard plan is not in place yet, the project won't go forward without plans for emergency services.
"Clearly there are a number of issues to be dealt with, including with the police and fire," he said. "All of this can and will be dealt with until it is satisfactory for all parties."
Questions about security on the trolley itself also will be worked out as the plan comes closer to fruition.
"Those plans are far from being developed," Campion said. "This is one of those areas, until we are further along, we won’t know how much. We will work hand in hand with what exists in the Loop."
He did add that no permanent police presence, like on MetroLink, is planned for the Trolley.
Councilman Terry Crow and several citizens questioned the financing for the plan and what, if any, financial liability the would have toward the trolley in the future.
Campion said there would be no financial responsibility for the city. The Transportation Development District (TDD) bears the costs. The businesses in TDD area is already collecting sales tax for the construction and maintenance of the trolley.
The board of the TDD includes Joe Edwards and representatives from the area taxing entities—University City, the City of St. Louis, MetroLink and St. Louis County.
Paul Schumer, former owner of Paul's Books, urged the council to move forward with the project.
"This must go forward," he said. "Every member of Loop Special Business District are all in favor and supported the tax on their sales and real estate. The East Loop supported the tax. If we stop this now, there is no way to ever revive it."
Jan Adams suggested the city hire special council in order to review all Loop Trolley documents to insure that the city has no financial responsiblity toward the project or any insurance liability should something go wrong.
Several other citizens questioned the financial risk and who would be left holding the bag should the project fail.
Andrew Wohl told the council he didn't want to see $100 million spent on a tourist attraction.
"I don't give a damn about what happens east of Skinker or about white people coming in from West County," he said. "I care about University City."
Wohl said University City had bigger problems and the city shouldn't be focusing any time on the Trolley project.
"U city used to be about schools and people," he said. "Now its all about sex, drugs and rock and roll."
City Manager Lehman Walker is compiling a list of frequently asked questions about the project and the answers to those questions for next week's council meeting.
Mayor Shelley Welsch asked the city council to think about how it wanted to proceed on the Loop Trolley issue before its next meeting—specifically whether it should write a letter or pass a resolution expressing its decision on the issue.
No vote was taken Monday.
For more on the Loop Trolley, check out our previous coverage: