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San Antonio to seek federal funds for streetcar system

Another step forward for San Antonio’s quest to lose its title as the most populous city in America without rail transit.

VIA Metropolitan Transit’s trustees on Tuesday approved the routes for a streetcar system and directed agency staff to seek a $25 million grant to help fund an initial segment.

VIA plans to submit an application to the Federal Transit Administration by Feb. 8 seeking the funding for a 2.2-mile, north-south route that largely would run along Broadway and South Alamo Street, from Josephine Street to South St. Mary’s Street. Officials currently expect that segment to cost roughly $90 million.

The board also approved an east-west route that ultimately could connect the AT&T Center to Our Lady of the Lake University, traversing downtown along East Nueva.

Mayor Julián Castro and County Judge Nelson Wolff told the VIA board that the city and county are ready to be full partners in the development of the system and committed to help bridge a funding gap. The grant would require at least 20 percent in local matching funds.

Previous blogging here and here; my thanks to commenter UrbanInfill in the latter post for pointing this out to me. It’s worth noting that a logical future extension of any San Antonio light rail system – these lines are currently envisioned as streetcars, with the plan that they would be converted if ridership supported it – would be to the airport, which is not too far north of downtown at US281 and Loop 410. But a Broadway route isn’t really suitable for that, so some other option would be needed. A commenter on the news story suggested San Pedro as an alternative to Broadway; if nothing else, I think you could make an airport connection work from such a line. Just a thought. Also, it’s nice to see city and county governments working together on a project like this as Castro and Wolff appear to be doing. I wonder what their secret is.

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4 Comments

  1. Anfang says:

    Is this the Broadway corridor to which you’re referring?

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=110+Broadway,+San+Antonio,+TX+78205+(The+San+Antonio+River+Walk)&daddr=broadway+%26+wetmore&hl=en&geocode=FccDwQEdWzEh-iF8oRXW-SvsBSlvJkjCVF9chjGBY4tnqCBS7A%3BFRe1wgEdyMkh-impadOD3IpchjGToQn3GoqLPg&mra=ls&dirflg=h&sll=29.4821,-98.468475&sspn=0.169457,0.308647&ie=UTF8&ll=29.492804,-98.488312&spn=0.084719,0.154324&z=13

    I only lived about half a year in San Antonio, and the northwest side at that, so I’ve only ever driven through or spent part of the day doing the tourist thing at the areas in question. But with google maps as my only guide, the only problem with a broadway corridor streetcar seems to be that it would have to turn break off from Broadway to get to the airport entrance – but a San Pedro corridor streetcar would have to do the same, so I think I’m missing something.

    And anyway, if we’re gonna dream big, San Antonio’s lack of density comes in real handy for visions of urban infilling, and it also happens to have what I’ve always felt was an unusually high amount of major-but-non-highway-designated roads that would be perfect for the job. Also, every other road seems to go in a gawd-aweful, city-straddling circle. That’s not really related to anything in particular, but I felt it needed to be said, lol.

  2. Looks like VIA is looking for a better way to fund their starter system.

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/traffic/VIA_spikes_grant_application.html

    They now plan to have both routes functioning by 2016.

  3. […] we know, San Antonio is seeking federal funds to build a streetcar line emanating from downtown. That’s not their only big transit plan in […]

  4. […] The north-south starter rail line, which will begin as a streetcar line, is intended to be on Broadway, which makes sense. VIA has already received a federal grant to do a feasibility study. Where they […]