DALLAS San Antonio’s Via Metropolitan Transit agency should abandon plans to build a $280 million modern streetcar line because of a $70 million funding gap, a local lawmaker said.
In a letter to the agency’s board, State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, said VIA is $70 million short of necessary funding and should “pause and reassess whether this project should move forward, or if it should be shelved.”
Larson’s letter came in advance of a public hearing on the streetcar proposal scheduled for Wednesday.
VIA has been meeting with various stakeholders including city, county and state officials as part of the public comment period.
San Antonio, the second largest city in Texas, has no light rail system, despite its concentration of convention, tourism and entertainment attractions downtown and along its famed River Walk.
The alternatives analysis, including route selection, was completed earlier this year. After that, environmental work can begin followed by final design work and construction. The project is expected to begin operations in 2017.
The project is a joint effort by Bexar County, San Antonio and VIA to build a light-rail system through downtown and the city’s major destinations.
All three governmental entities voted in the fall of 2011 to fund the streetcar plan. The transit agency's planners and consultants have spent almost a year studying where the streetcar system should run through downtown.
Larson and other opponents last year asked Bexar County to reconsider using $92 million in transportation sales tax revenues for the streetcar. The sales-tax revenue would provide debt service for bonds, if approved by the agency.
An Advanced Transportation District sales tax authorized by voters in 2004 was never intended to go to light rail, opponents claim.
The county negotiated a funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation.
VIA anticipates building the project in stages, with requests for additional funding from the federal government.
“With the $210 million we have, we can get off to a good start and continue to look for additional infrastructure and transportation funding,” Via trustee Lou Miller told the San Antonio Express.