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Downtown Businesses May Be Asked to Cover Streetcar Deficit

Downtown Businesses May Be Asked to Cover Streetcar Deficit

The board of trustees of Via Metro Transit is again looking at levying a tax on downtown property owners as a way to close the $70 million gap between the projected cost of the controversial downtown streetcar system and the amount Via has in the bank, 1200 WOAI news reports.

 

  Via Trustee Lou Miller says he has asked Via staff to put together a plan for a taxing district to collect money from businesses along the route which consultants have recommended for the streetcar.

 

  "The possibilities of having a Downtown Transportation Development District, which would also help fund it," Miller told 1200 WOAI news.

 

  Downtown business and property owners have already rejected one call to help pay for the streetcar, but Miller says other cities, he cited Kansas City, have built their downtown streetcars largely by taxing the property owners who would benefit from that streetcar.

 

  "They taxed the downtown district, the developers and businesses who were going to benefit from the streetcar," he said.

 

  Miller says the federal government will also help provide the money Via needs to build the streetcar route, which is the most expensive of the six routes considered.

 

  He says already having $210 million in the bank will convince federal transportation planners to invest in the San Antonio project, rather than in others which might not be as well capitalized, and he pointed out that Texas and San Antonio are both among the fastest growing regions in the country, which would also justify additional federal support of mobility projects.

 

  He says Via will build the streetcar 'in stages' so construction can begin on time as scheduled.

 

  "We will being in phases, so we will have money leveraged for the federal government when they come out with additional grants for transportation," he said.

 

  Meanwhile, Via has responded to State Rep Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) who on Monday recommended that the streetcar project be scrapped entirely.

 

  "Cities with streetcar systems have seen the promises of such systems unfold," Via said.  "These networks have experienced ridership that has exceeded estimates and spurred economic development in the vicinity of the routes, and we expect similar success for San Antonio," Via said.

 

 

 

 

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