Bi-State may run Loop Trolley one year longer than planned

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ST. LOUIS – The head of Bi-State Development said he’ll likely run the Delmar Loop Trolley longer than first planned.

At $51 million in taxpayer money, the trolley is one of the St. Louis area’s costliest projects in recent history.

Bi-State Development President and CEO Taulby Roach said the agency is making progress to keep the project afloat and is considering running the trolley for at least four years instead of three.

“We solve problems for the region. This wasn’t our project. It’s not the county executive’s favorite project; it’s not the mayor’s favorite project, but what we had to do was solve a problem,” Roach said. “And you know what? We’re doing pretty well.”

The trolley was forced to shut down in late 2019 because of a lack of finances brought on by poor ridership.

There was a heated debate over whether to let the trolley fail and default on the money the federal government had kicked in for the project. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones led the push to get Bi-State Development to run the trolley.

“We have one more season to go through, and as we increase in ridership on Loop Trolley, we want to keep pushing that. What we needed to do was be sure that it was operating correctly,” Roach said.

For critics like taxpayer watchdog Tom Sullivan, it’s all a bad deal.

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“It’s been a boondoggle from the very beginning. It will always be a boondoggle,” Sullivan said. “So, they can keep funding it, keep it running, but that isn’t going to change it. It’s been a waste of money.”

Roach maintains there were long-term consequences for defaulting on the loan from the federal government. Letting the trolley fail was not a good option.

“We had over 8,000 rides in 2022. Now, we’ve exceeded that number; over 8,500 rides in 2023,” he said. “We need to compress it, be sure that we’re running it with the minimal operating capacity.”

Roach said by not defaulting on the loan, the region has fulfilled its obligations and Bi-State Development can continue forward with future investments.


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