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Mayor wants Bi-State board to reconsider rejection of Loop Trolley plan

Loop Trolley  rwk

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


ST. LOUIS — Mayor Lyda Krewson on Wednesday said she wants the Bi-State Development Agency’s board to reconsider a rejected plan to restart and operate the Loop Trolley with unspent federal grant money.

She also said she would work with regional partners “to figure out … if there’s a way forward” for the trolley.

“I think there are still some unanswered questions and we ought to figure out how not to owe back $25 million,” the mayor said in an interview.

That was a reference to a Federal Transit Administration official’s statement Friday that if the trolley wasn’t revived, his agency could file a lawsuit to recover $25 million in federal grant money that had been used to help build the trolley line and related projects.

The official, regional administrator Mokhtee Ahmad, said there would be no effort to recover $11 million in other trolley-related federal spending because those were “street projects that would be done anyway.”

A motion Friday to advance a plan to bail out the trolley for four years died for lack of a second at a meeting of two Bi-State board committees. Nine of 10 members of the full board took part.

Ahmad said any clawback lawsuit would be filed against the special sales tax district set up to help fund the line and the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which was involved in getting the $25 million grant.

Asked by one Bi-State board member on Friday whether his agency had ever tried to claw back grant money previously, Ahmad said “we came close” once in another part of the country.

But after “a letter was sent,” the parties involved “did come around and complete the project,” he said. Ahmad didn’t identify the location of that project.

Krewson was interviewed Wednesday after a meeting of the East-West Gateway Council, which did not discuss the trolley.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page also was asked Wednesday by a reporter if Bi-State should reconsider.

“I don’t have enough information right now to have an opinion on that,” he said.

He also said that “we need to recognize the federal government may want to claw back some of this money and once they describe that process ... we’ll look at this question again.”

Earlier Wednesday, Taulby Roach, Bi-State’s president and CEO, said there had been no consideration given by the agency’s board to the trolley since the Friday meeting.

Roach had worked with Ahmad to put together the plan, which was aimed at stabilizing the trolley’s finances and operations until it could become self-sustaining as revenue from the sales tax grew.

The nonprofit Loop Trolley Co. shut down the 2.2-mile line on Dec. 29 after financial and operational problems during its little more than a year of service.

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