ST. LOUIS — The Loop Trolley is scheduled to return to service in the summer unless its new operator, the Bi-State Development Agency, needs more time to ensure the trolley cars and other equipment are safe – and meet other agency standards.
That’s part of a letter Mayor Tishaura O. Jones plans to send Friday to Mokhtee Ahmad, who heads the Federal Transit Administration’s regional office.
The letter from Jones, the chair of the streetcar transportation development district, was approved by the district board on Thursday.
The board, which collects a sales tax collected in and near the 2.2-mile trolley route, also approved the memorandum prepared with Bi-State to acquire the trolley operations. The same document was approved last week by the bi-state board, which also oversees Metro Transit.
Jones reiterated that although she opposed the trolley’s creation, she must resume operations to avoid having to pay back federal money that helped build the $51 million line. The trolley was decommissioned at the end of 2019 due to financial and operational problems.
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“Our region is coming together to solve this problem and make sure we’re not on the hook for tens of millions of federal dollars,” she said.
Ahmad had given local officials until Tuesday to come up with a plan to resume trolley service from June 1 or face efforts to recover up to $37 million.
Jones said the district is confident the summer’s reopening goal, which begins in late June, can be met with Bi-State’s technical expertise.
However, she said oversight and certification from the state Department of Transportation will be “the key factor in ensuring a prudent opening date.”
The letter said the District will pay Bi-State to hire full and part-time personnel to operate and maintain the trolley. Bi-State will also provide contracted landscaping, security and communications support services.
Also participating in Thursday’s videoconference were the four other members of the district executive board — Sam Page, executive director of St. Louis County, Terry Crow, college town mayor, Joe Edwards, Delmar Loop businessman, and Taulby Roach, CEO of Bi-State.
However, Roach abstained from voting on the district’s agreement with the bi-state, citing a conflict of interest.
Jones said the district estimates it will collect $773,787 in sales tax this year, which is 90% of the pre-pandemic 2019 total. The county will also use previously collected tax revenue to operate the trolley; it had $881,321 in January.
The district has also applied to the East-West Gateway Council of Governments for a $1.26 million federal grant; a decision on this is not expected until August.
The board of the council rejected a similar request in October. The bi-state board’s decision to take on the trolley for three years was a reversal of his previous position held in 2020.
Jones said in her letter that the district has met with trolley service partners like the Missouri Historical Society and Forest Park Forever to try to work together on event partnerships.
The date for the return of service has yet to be determined; A Federal Transit Administration official wants that to happen in June.
The agency that operates Metro Transit rejected the idea in 2020.