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Published: Friday, 9/2/2005

TARTA backs streetcars for downtown

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A downtown streetcar line in Toledo may be years - if not more than a decade - away, but the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority likes the idea.

The transit authority's board voted yesterday to endorse a study developed by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments that proposes, among other things, streetcars running between the Erie Street Market and a new transportation center at Cherry Street and Greenbelt Parkway and to the Toledo Museum of Art.

The streetcars, converting Madison and Jefferson avenues and 12th and Huron streets to two-way operation, and the establishment to shuttle bus service between downtown and East Toledo are the principal recommendations of the Regional Core Circulator Study that metropolitan council consultants recently finalized.

In the longer term, the study recommends developing a transit connection between downtown Toledo and the Research and Technology Corridor concept that the University of Toledo is pursuing. That corridor includes transit service between UT, Toledo Hospital, and the Medical University of Ohio along an existing railroad corridor that is inactive north of Dorr Street and lightly used south of there.

The report by consultant Wilbur Smith Associates said the streetcars and other improvements would create "a unique themed attraction and downtown transit distribution and circulation service" that would provide "an attractive and fun alternative to driving short distances" between restaurants, offices, and entertainment venues.

Once assured that about $41.6 million of the program's estimated $57.5 million cost is proposed to be paid from federal transit grants, with a local share projected at $10.1 million, most transit authority trustees endorsed the idea.

"Certainly, we don't have the money to fund it," James Gee, TARTA's general manager, told the board. For grant funding, he said, "We're not competing against other transit projects in Toledo, but against similar projects elsewhere."

"We can compete with Little Rock, Des Moines, anybody else," agreed David Dysard, TMACOG's vice president of transportation. "Bring 'em on!"

Two dissenting votes were cast by trustees Bonita Johnson and Kenneth Ragland. Ms. Johnson questioned the wisdom of developing a "retro" service like a streetcar and said she was unsure that the system would be of much benefit to the general population.

Mr. Ragland, meanwhile, questioned the wisdom of putting streetcar rails into streets, like Monroe, that have recently been rebuilt.

But by the time anything actually is constructed, those streets could be due for repairs again. "At the absolute best," Mr. Dysard said, work won't start until six to 10 years from now.

TARTA is the first agency to endorse the transit plan. Mr. Dysard said he plans to seek similar endorsements from other bodies, including Toledo City Council, the Lucas County commissioners, Downtown Toledo Inc., the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and the University of Toledo.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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