Curtains for St. Louis’ Delmar Loop Trolley Plans?

Will St. Louis' downtown loop trolly survive bad financial news? Image: nextSTL
Will St. Louis’ Loop trolley survive bad financial news? Image: nextSTL

For years, St. Louis and adjacent University City have been planning a 2.2-mile streetcar that would connect the thriving Delmar Loop business district to the museums in nearby Forest Park. In 2010, the plan won a competitive $22 million federal “Urban Circulator” grant. That funding, along with a 1 percent sales tax increase approved by area property owners, made the $43 million plan looked like a sure thing.

But since that time, the plan has faltered. First, opponents filed a lawsuit challenging the project in federal court. The suit was ultimately dismissed in April, but it caused years of delays. In 2013, the federal government nearly pulled the grant, citing concerns about slow progress.

And just when it looked like every hurdle had been cleared, the project was delivered another blow. A call for bids this week was met with very bad news: The lowest bid was $11 million more than the anticipated sticker cost of $43 million.

Nobody’s sure where the extra money is going to come from, reports Alex Ihnen at nextSTL, and it looks like some of the main partners might be bailing out. The project has already undergone budget cuts, so there might not many costs left to eliminate. Ihnen writes:

nextSTL has learned that other partners are beginning to plan for the financial fallout if the project is never built. Efforts are underway to explore whether the $22M federal grant could be reassigned to another project within the St. Louis region. Meanwhile, supporters of the Loop Trolley are hoping additional federal funds will be made available.

The project, promoted by a group of business owners called the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District, was aimed mostly at spurring development and tourism along Delmar, and would also include dramatic streetscape improvements along the route.

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