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The Bi-State Development Board earlier this week voted to explore possible options for assuming control of the Loop Trolley streetcar operations in St. Louis, Missouri.
The 2.2-mile Loop Trolley, which is operated by the nonprofit Loop Trolley Co., is financially strapped and set to close by Dec. 29. It needs about $240,000 more a year to operate, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported earlier this week.
Closure could mean defaulting on some of the $36 million in federal transportation grant funding that was allocated to the streetcar line, the newspaper reported.
In response, the Bi-State Development Board, which governs the MetroLink light-rail system in St. Louis, authorized Bi-State President and Chief Executive Officer Taulby Roach to explore options for a takeover of the line.
One option being considered would be to work with the Federal Transit Administration on a special agreement to re-designate federal funding from capital grants so that the federal funds could be used to cover the streetcar's operational costs, Bi-State officials said in a press release.
That option would require no additional funding from existing transit funding partners or regional taxpayers, nor would it require reallocation of funding now dedicated to other Metro Transit-St. Louis transit operations.
The board's authorization enables evaluation of options to avoid a default on the federal grants, but a final decision on the Loop Trolley operations will be made by the board at a later date, officials said.
“The current plan provides an opportunity — at no additional cost to local taxpayers — to see if we can reverse course on the Loop Trolley and turn it into a successful operation,” Roach said in a press release. “A default on a federal grant could affect our region for years to come. Every day we compete with other regions for federal funding. Our job is to stay competitive — this effort supports our competitive reputation.”