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There was a vote Friday on bringing back the Loop Trolley. Here's what happened.

Bi-State Development's board supported managing the streetcar line, but it would still need federal highway funds to operate long-term.

ST. LOUIS — Bi-State Development on Friday took a step toward operating the troubled Delmar Loop Trolley, as its board voted for a proposal to manage the streetcar line.

Bi-State's CEO, Taulby Roach, said in a statement that the plan "involves no transfer of Loop Trolley assets or liability and allows us to financially isolate the Loop Trolley project."

But Roach conceded during a meeting Friday that the trolley would eventually require $1.26 million in federal highway funds to operate long-term. East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the region's planning organization, previously rejected awarding those funds to the trolley's taxing district, but is being asked to reconsider.

East-West Gateway's leader, Executive Director Jim Wild, said Friday that its board could vote on the grant, which comes from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, in August, with funds then coming available sometime from October to December.

Until then, he said, it's his understanding that the trolley's taxing district, which collects a 1% sales tax in the Delmar Loop, "has enough money to operate it for a little while."

Roach said next steps involve an assessment of trolley assets, plus negotiation with the Federal Transit Administration about providing limited service and when that would begin. Roach said free service on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, totaling 32 hours a week, is being contemplated.

"We do not know the exact operating characteristics of the three Loop Trolley cars themselves," Roach added. "That has to be assessed. They have to be assessed within the standards of Metro Transit and that means our equipment works and does not break down."

Bi-State's board in 2020 rejected a takeover of the trolley. Under that proposal, Bi-State would have become the owner of the trolley's assets, rather than solely a manager.

But Bi-State's board has also changed since that vote, with new members including Debra Moore, Nate Johnson and Sam Gladney.

One member, Derrick Cox, on Friday voted against the management proposal, suggesting that before voting, the board hear from a regional FTA official about whether the failure to resurrect the trolley's operations would indeed jeopardize the region's ability to win future federal grants.

The FTA in December threatened to force St. Louis to repay federal grants used to construct the $52 million trolley if it was not running by June. Mayor Tishaura Jones has said that could cost $22 million, and has pushed to create a plan to avoid default.

The long-delayed trolley debuted in November 2018, offering service from the Delmar Boulevard entertainment district to Forest Park. But it fell far short of expectations and after less than a year in service, its operators were seeking additional funds to avoid insolvency.  

Read the full story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.

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