Wednesday, April 28, 2010

VIA seeks new way to fund streetcars

Looks like VIA is planning to take this another route. This is good as it might get more support since both routes are now going to be put down simultaneously. It's good to see VIA really pushing for these funds, it seems as if streetscars will finally be a reality in San Antonio in the near future.

By Josh Baugh - Express-News
Web Posted: 04/28/2010 12:00 CDT

VIA Metropolitan Transit's board of trustees voted Tuesday to spike a federal grant application for up to $25 million because it could have ended up costing the agency and its partners — the city and Bexar County — more money to build a streetcar system in the long run.
Instead, the board directed VIA staff to seek federal funding through the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts and Small Starts program, which allows for larger amounts of federal funding.

Using the Small Starts program, VIA would move away from its controversial decision to build only a north-south streetcar route along Broadway and South Alamo as its first-phase project.

With Small Starts funding, VIA would be able to build both north-south and east-west routes in its first phase of construction.

“The true upside of the Small Starts process is that we'd be able, with the same amount of local money, to do both projects,” said Keith Parker, VIA's president and CEO.

Board Chairman Henry Muñoz said this change in funding strategy could put to rest pointed questions about why the north-south route would come first.

Kevin O'Neill, VIA's chief lobbyist in Washington, told the VIA board Tuesday that the agency stood little chance of receiving the full $25 million in its grant application, and the difference between that amount and what VIA were to receive would have to be covered locally.

Also, agencies that receive funds from that “urban circulator” grant would be unable to receive any more federal funding for the project, he said.

“The key thing we can't emphasize enough — if we succeed — we may get significantly less than the $25 million,” he said. “The urban circulator program is a federal funding dead end.”

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