Loop Trolley on schedule, but delays are possible
Supporters of a plan to build a trolley line from the University City lions to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park say the project is right on its revised schedule.
The Loop Trolley will cost about $44 million to build. Construction could begin in 2013, and Bob Archibald, the president of both the Missouri Historical Society and the non-profit Loop Trolley Company says work should be finished by 2014, the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis.
The project was originally expected to open this fall, but Archibald says the timeline has changed since the project was conceived over burgers at Blueberry Hill.
"When we began this, we had no idea of the practicality, feasibility or whether or not we could find finding for a project like this," he said.
The company has secured about $38 million in federal and state funds for construction of the system. They rest will come from private donations, and Archibald says they're about halfway there.
"It's always kind of a cliffhanger," he said.
And Archibald says there are other hurdles left to climb.
"There are a lot of public processes that we need to go through," he said. "If any one of them got the wrong answer, we'd have to back up and go to square one."
For example, Archibald said, the trolley company had to get approval from the Forest Park Advisory Board to run the trolley on overhead wires in the park. Originally, the trolley was supposed to run on batteries from the old streetcar stop at Hodiamont Ave. into the park. But Archibald said the technology was too expensive and unproven.
"If you can imagine a trolley car getting stuck in traffic on a 104-degree July day, sitting there running its air conditioning off its batteries, there's a real potential there to get a trolley car stuck or passengers stuck," he said.
The company must apply for the remainder of a $25 million federal grant (it received $3 million for a feasibility study) by this summer.
"In order to apply for the balance, we've got to demonstrate that we've got all the pieces in place, Archibald said. "And we intend to do that."
The Loop Trolley Company is holding two open houses at the History Museum to update the public. The first is until 7:30 tonight. The second is March 26 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.