September 12, 2012The University City Council approved a letter this week in support of the Loop Trolley.
The letter, drafted by City Manager Lehman Walker and approved by a 7-0 vote, "endorses the concept of a fixed track trolley." The support came despite protests from several audience members at the council's Sept. 10 meeting.
University City resident Elsie Glickert implored the council not to take a vote on the letter that night because too many questions remained unresolved. She questioned the newest proposal to stub the trolley line near the University City Library, just west of Kingsland Avenue, and wanted to know who in the TDD proposed it.
She also complained the TDD was formed by only property owners in the area — which included only 18 people and one institution, Washington University. She added that their purpose in forming the TDD was only "to develop an area east of Skinker Boulevard."
Opponents also claimed the proposed route configuration changes too often, and have complained about it changing from a single track to a double track, which they said could hinder emergency and other vehicle traffic.
Joe Edwards, a representative of the Loop Special Business District and one of he main supporters of the trolley, told the council the $24.99 million Urban Circulator Grant from the Federal Transportation Administration was recently approved and the construction and operation of the trolley by the Loop Trolley Company could begin.
Edwards told the council the route had changed because it was discovered that it would have interfered with underground Laclede Gas valves and had to be revised. He also said he didn't think the trolley terminus near the library would hinder traffic.
Tom Sullivan, a University City resident and a critic of the trolley, said there were many reasons for the council not to support the project. He said the Missouri Sunshine law was violated because the city manager's letter was placed on the meeting agenda without explanation. He said residents are being shut out of the process, and that it would be "improper to support the trolley prior to the plans being submitted to city boards and commissions."
He also said many legal issues have not been resolved and claimed questions have been raised about the trolley operating beyond the boundaries of the TDD.
"This is not an insignificant matter," Sullivan said.
Councilman Stephen Kraft later assured residents that city taxpayers would not pay anything for the operations of the trolley and that the TDD would be financially responsible should the trolley turn out to be a failure.