The agency that operates the St. Louis area’s mass transit system has scaled back its plan to take over a streetcar line that shut down last month because of financial problems.
Bi-State Development CEO Taulby Roach told the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday that the Loop Trolley system would use $1.9 million from the unspent balances of previous federal grants to get the moribund trolley back in service and able to sustain itself, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
An initial plan called for Bi-State to take over the trolley’s assets and liabilities, an idea that made some area officials uncomfortable. Under the new plan, the line would remain the property of the transportation district that was set up to fund the trolley, and Bi-State would manage it for four years without any new local government subsidies.
The 2.2-mile (3.5-kilometer) system, which runs from University City’s Delmar Loop to the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, began operation in November 2018 after years of delays. Ridership was low, as the line operated on a limited-hours, four-days-a-week schedule with just two of its three cars in service. Officials had hoped to expand the hours of operation after the kinks were worked out, but they couldn’t fix the financial problems.
The shutdown has raised concerns that the federal government — which paid for about two-thirds of the $51.5 million system — might want to be paid back part of the money if the trolley stops running for good.
In a letter to county officials, Roach wrote: “Please do not misconstrue my work toward finding a potential solution … as meaning that I necessarily think the Loop Trolley was the best way federal transportation dollars could ever have been spent. … Today we all find ourselves in the unenviable position of identifying a way to reassure the federal government that the St. Louis region can be trusted with federal investments by making the best out of a bad situation.”
The takeover plan hasn’t received formal approval.