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Opposition mounts to Delmar Loop trolley

Opposition mounts to Delmar Loop trolley

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UNIVERSITY CITY • Elsie Glickert of University City calls the trolley planned for the Delmar Loop to Forest Park the "Streetcar Named No Desire to Nowhere."

She's part of a vocal opposition that has surfaced as the Loop Trolley project nears its final design and groundbreaking later this year.

Backers say it will boost tourism and bolster mass transit, help Loop businesses and the environment and connect a lively entertainment and dining area to Forest Park.

"Building the Loop Trolley will not only create a more desirable area in the Delmar Loop, but it will also encourage economic development along the entire 2.2-mile route," said Jessica Bueler, a business owner who is president of the Loop Special Business District in University City.

The route would run from a new traffic roundabout that would be built near City Hall in University City and then east on Delmar to DeBaliviere, and south on DeBaliviere. It would circle around the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.

But over the last week, some homeowners on Lindell Boulevard and in University City have signed petitions and are sending letters to more than 15 federal and local agencies and officials to try to get the project killed or changed.

Some of the residents are opposed to overhead electric wires for the trolleys across Lindell Boulevard and around the Missouri History Museum. They say the wires will be unsightly and hurt property values. Sean Gannon, a Lindell neighborhood trustee, said at a meeting last week that the project was 'steamrolling its way through and residents were being completely left out of the process."

Supporters say there had been many open houses and public meetings for several years.

University City residents voiced concerns at two meetings this past week — once at a city council meeting and then again at an informational meeting Wednesday night.

The critics worried about traffic congestion, parking and whether the trolley could meet operating costs without taxpayer help. But others residents cheered the project, lauding Joe Edwards, the prime mover behind the trolley.

There's apparently little that can be done to stop the $44 million project. With the money already approved or in hand, the project also has the main necessary approvals. The largely federally funded project is due to start construction late this year or early in 2013 and be completed in about a year.

Resident Jan Scott said she is concerned about St. Louis County turning over control of a portion of Delmar to University City. "My main concern is that taxpayers are going to end up taking responsibility for the road and perhaps other issues with the trolley," she said.

Residents at the Wednesday meeting saw the first drawings of the roundabout at Trinity Avenue and Delmar. The trolleys would not circle the roundabout but instead pull over in front of the 560 Music Center at Delmar and Trinity and reverse direction.

The streetcars would run up to 25 mph in lanes on two sets of fixed double tracks — one set for each direction — with auto traffic from Sgt. Mike King Drive east along Delmar in University City to the Wabash Station in St. Louis. For the remainder of the way to the Missouri History Museum, the trolleys would run on a single rail in a dedicated lane apart from traffic.

Drawings unveiled last week show that the two eastern lanes of DeBaliviere would be closed to automobiles, with one used for a greenway and the other for the trolley.

The trolleys would be classic streetcars, running on tracks and powered by overhead wires. Yearly operating costs are projected at about $1.3 million. About $600,000 will come from a 1 percent sales tax that has been paid for several years at area businesses. The rest is to be made up by fares, institutions and advertisers.

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Margaret S. Gillerman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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