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St. Louis leaders get extension on Loop Trolley plan, mayor says

The $52 million trolley debuted in November 2018 and fell far short of expectations.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis leaders now have until March 1 to submit to the feds a plan to restart operations of the Delmar Loop Trolley streetcar line, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said Tuesday.

The Federal Transit Administration in December had told the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District, which built the 2.2-mile line, that it had to submit a plan that resumes trolley service for at least four days a week, using three vehicles, by Feb. 1. If it did not, the FTA may seek to recover funding used to build the line. Jones said Tuesday that could total $22 million.

Jones said she and other members of the TDD were still reviewing options for such a plan, but that the FTA's granting of the extension was "helpful as we continue to meet with stakeholders across the region."

She said the TDD's board would meet next month to review a plan that will be submitted to the FTA.

One of the trolley's primary proponents, Loop restaurateur and businessman Joe Edwards, said Tuesday that before the pandemic, the trolley was close to being able to sustain itself financially. The TDD collects a 1% sales tax used to fund operations, and the trolley charged for rides.

The $52 million trolley debuted in November 2018, offering service from the Delmar Boulevard entertainment district to Forest Park. But it fell far short of expectations and within less than a year in service, its operators were seeking additional funds to avoid insolvency.  

The Loop Trolley TDD shut down service in December 2019 — a suspension of operations that was only supposed to last until April 2020. The pandemic, however, led to its continued dormancy, leading the FTA to evaluate whether the TDD and East-West Council of Governments — the two groups that received federal funding for the trolley project — are in compliance with terms of the grants.

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