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City Council Removes Private Funding From Streetcar Project

Eileen Pace
TPR News

The controversial San Antonio streetcar project is moving ahead without help from the private sector. On Thursday city council voted to remove money from property owners that would have amounted to about $15 million.

Even though there is tens of millions of dollars coming from the county, $40 million from the city, and newfound money from VIA, Dist. 10 Councilman Carlton Soules said he believes that if people want streetcars, they should be allowed to help fund it.

"Why not continue with the private funding arrangement if we're going to do this?” asked Soules.  “And I voted originally against any streetcar and continue to believe it's a bad deal but why would we give up the private sector investment piece? I think it's still important to do."

Property owners like the idea, people like Ed Cross who said he is ready to write a check.

Soules, along with Dist. 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan and Dist. 8 Councilman Reed Williams, disagreed with the amendment, but their votes were outweighed by the rest of the council who favored the change.

No matter where the money comes from, Bob Martin with the Bexar County Homeowners Taxpayer Association, has been against streetcars since the outset.

"For the price of one mile of track for a streetcar, you can buy approximately 40 [VIA] Prímo Buses, and you don't need infrastructure to run them," said Martin.

Dist. 1 Councilman Diego Bernal said this will help make downtown great and for the people of the city, not just tourists.

"It's going to bring in a lot more development, a lot more restaurants,” he said. “Think about UTSA football. The traffic will be totally different because you can park on the outside and make your way in."

The five year project is still on track with a slightly different way to pay for it.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.