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Jones opposes Loop Trolley funding request, Spencer is undecided

Jones opposes Loop Trolley funding request, Spencer is undecided

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People wait to ride the Loop Trolley at the Missouri History Museum on Nov. 2, 2019 (Post-Dispatch photo)

ST. LOUIS — Mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones opposes a request for a $1.26 million federal grant to help restart the financially plagued Loop Trolley.

Jones’ opponent, Cara Spencer, also has been critical of the trolley. But an aide said she would hold off a decision on the grant until after discussing it with St. Louis County and University City officials.

The trolley covers a 2.2-mile route in University City and St. Louis.

Jones, the city treasurer, said in a statement that “St. Louisans should have serious concerns about the long-term viability of this project before it is considered.”

“We should be prioritizing projects that promote equity, access to opportunity and environmental justice. I am not sure the Loop Trolley achieves (any of) those three goals.”

A spokeswoman for Spencer, Joan Bray, said Spencer wanted to meet with the city’s governmental partners on the project after taking office.

“She’s very interested in getting good information about it and in wanting to make the best decision,” Bray said.

Whoever is elected mayor will be a member of the board of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, a regional panel that will decide on the grant request in the summer.

East-West Gateway’s staff first must review the proposal along with other grant requests.

St. Louis County’s top official on the East-West Gateway board, County Executive Sam Page, said through an aide that he would consider the request.

“One year ago, Dr. Page said any proposal that does not require additional county funds is worth listening to,” Page spokesman Doug Moore said in a text message.

“The project needs new leadership and needs to be financially self-sufficient. The federal funds requested could help with the latter.”

The new St. Louis mayor also will be on the board of the transportation development district that oversees a sales tax that continues to generate money for the trolley, along with Page and others.

The district made the request for the grant although Moore said Page was not at any meeting at which the request was discussed.

The grant application says the grant would allow the trolley to operate free of charge from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays for about two years. The service could resume as soon as the end of this year.

By late 2023, the application says, sales tax revenues are expected to have recovered to pre-pandemic levels and the trolley could operate on its own financially.

Financial problems forced the trolley to shut down at the end of 2019 after only about a year in business and ridership far below expectations, although it was revived last July for a few weekends.

The trolley also was plagued by operational problems and delays in restoring, delivering and testing its cars.

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