Loop trolley project receives $25 million federal grant

| Contributing Reporter

Supporters of the Loop trolley project were ecstatic this July to learn that their dream of constructing a 2.2 mile trolley line on the Delmar Loop is coming closer to fruition, thanks to a $24.99 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The grant is funded by the Urban Circulator Program and aims to increase public transportation in cities. St. Louis was one of only five cities selected to receive the grant.

The Loop Trolley Co. (LTC) is a local nonprofit headed by Blueberry Hill Restaurant owner Joe Edwards.

After LTC failed to procure a $51 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in a series of fundraising setbacks earlier this year, the newfound aid comes as an encouraging windfall.

“It’s just wonderful news,” Edwards said. “The Loop trolley will be a valuable asset for all of St. Louis because it will inspire and draw economic investment, stabilize neighborhoods, and attract tourism.”

Additionally, voters living in the Delmar and DeBaliviere area have passed a one-cent sales tax last year that will generate $400,000 to $500,000 annually for the trolley.

With the grant and tax initiatives accounted for, LTC still needs to fundraise about $8 million through donations in order to cover the full estimated start-up cost of $44 million.

According to LTC, the benefits of bringing trolleys back to the Loop are many. Because the Loop Trolley will run from Trinity Avenue down Delmar Blvd. and turn right on DeBaliviere Blvd., it will connect two existing MetroLink Stations to the attractions in the Loop as well as Forest Park.

Edwards also maintains that since the trolleys would be electric-battery hybrids, the system would be a green alternative to transportation on the Loop and would create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

“With the trolleys, fewer people would have to rely on their cars or deal with the costs of driving, and I think that will help out the young people tremendously,” Edwards said.

Supporters believe that having trolleys on the Loop will boost the area’s residential, commercial and recreational development.

“We already know of two to three new conventions that will be held in St. Louis thanks in part to the excitement of the trolleys. Hotels in downtown St. Louis can also benefit from the added tourism,” Edwards said.

Washington University is also an advocate of the Loop trolley project. The University has consistently expressed its interest over the years in the continued development and vibrancy of the Loop.

“The Loop …. is an important asset to the University.  As such, the University has supported it’s stabilization and organic growth in a number of important ways,” Cheryl Adelstein, the Director of Community Relations and Local Government Affairs, wrote in a statement.

Despite its support of growth of the Loop in general through acquiring properties, the University has made no financial commitment to the trolley project.

Although riders will have to pay a fee to ride the trolley, Edwards hopes LTC can collaborate with Metro to create a seamless public transportation system. LTC projects that ground will be broken on the project by late 2011, and the trolley will be open for public use by 2012.

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