Another busy intersection in the Delmar Loop will be shut down starting Monday for Loop Trolley construction. More than 85 percent of the track for the project has been installed, but traffic won’t be allowed at Skinker and Delmar boulevards for at least the next 12 days.
The trolley should start operating later this year, with many University City and business leaders confident it will help reduce traffic volume and help with a parking crunch, potentially by making better use of MetroLink.
"Whether it's the Forest Park stop, or the Delmar Loop stop and hop on the Trolley to get there. So that will diminish the number of cars that come into the area,” says Loop developer Joe Edwards, who also believes the trolley will draw investment while making the area more livable, walkable and attractive for young adults.
“That is the future of cities in our country. People forget that, how important this is. This isn't just a nostalgic trip.”
The Loop Trolley is a $51 million project. Backers of the initiative say $25 million is covered by a Federal Transit Administration Urban Circular Grant. Several other sources are funding the project including:
- Federal grants from the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Improvement Program and Surface Transportation Program
- St. Louis County Mass Transit Fund
- Great Rivers Greenway
- Proceeds from the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District
When it’s complete, possibly later this year, it will link University City and Forest Park, with a turnaround at the Missouri History Museum.
With traffic usually a problem during peak times, especially Friday and Saturday nights in what is essentially an entertainment district in the St. Louis region, many are concerned about the trolley adding to heavy congestion.
University City officials point to research showing all intersections should be within timing guidelines once construction is over.
“The maximum delay can be 55 seconds at each cycle,” says Sinan Alpaslan, the director of public works and parks for University City.
If the wait is more than that, the traffic would be at an unacceptable level.
Those parameters are laid out in research by CBB Transportation Engineers and Planners, which has also looked into anticipated parking once the project is finished.
The consultants say the trolley should not take away from the amount of parking already in the area. They also have a suggestion. A potential parking garage should be part of any long-term strategy in University City. But parking garages are not cheap. A 500-space structure could cost as much as $15 million.
“That can be a future planning type of analysis and maybe mitigation measures then can be implemented. For now, for that recommendation we don't have a plan of action,” said Alpaslan.
But at least one business owner would like to see such a plan become reality.
“There has to be a larger parking area available for this area than just street parking or the small city garage or the small parking lot across the way,” says Mark Strahm, who runs the Rocket Fizz store on Delmar.
“Yes, it is a problem parking down here. There is parking available and a lot of it is people don't realize where the parking is.”
He also says some free spots off of Delmar are taken up by students during the school year.
Projections are fine, but the impact of the Trolley on vehicles in the area won’t be known until it starts picking up passengers. City officials say flow and stoplight intervals will be re-assessed six months after that point and any necessary adjustments will likely be made.
But Edwards, who owns several businesses in the area including Blueberry Hill, The Pageant, Pin-Up Bowl and the Moonrise Hotel, thinks the trolley is the next step in his long-term vision for the economic health of The Loop.
“I think it's going to thrive more. Long-term stability is important to me and to cities around the country and I think it's going to add that.”