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Streetcar Future Uncertain As City Takes Unexpected Turn

Flickr user ericnvntr

San Antonio's streetcar project hit a major hurdle Monday when city council asked city staff to draft an ordinance that would withdraw the city's $32 million contribution from the project.

Both the city and the Bexar County believe that it is important that there be community consensus on a comprehensive multi-modal transportation plan, Mayor Ivy Taylor said as the executive session the council held Monday came to a close. The meeting convened to discuss the legal issues relating to the signatures opponents collected to change the city charter so that residents could vote on the project.

But after the meeting it was apparent that the city council had a change of heart and decided to seek more community input on the matter.

"At this time, there is a lack of community support for the streetcar project," said Taylor. She said that the city council will not approve streetcars without a vote of the electorate. Taylor said the council is asking for the money to be redirected toward other center-city development initiatives instead.

The mayor plans to appoint a charter commission to explore transportation and other issues.

Meantime, VIA officials said the transit authority had no comment, but that board trustees were aware of the situation. A meeting will be held on Thursday for members to discuss the latest development in the ongoing streetcar project controversy.

But Greg Brockhouse, who led the charge to collect signatures so that voters could have a say on whether they would like a streetcar, told TPR, "Today is a good day."

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who also has spoken against the streetcar issue publicly, issued a statement as well:

"Mayor Taylor and the San Antonio City Council should be commended for making the right decision," the statement said. "The streetcar project was a boondoggle that did nothing to relieve traffic congestion or improve San Antonio roads."

The lack of support from the city throws a wrench into the plans by VIA. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who has worked on the project for a number of years, expressed his disappointment.

The city of San Antonio and Bexar County are asking VIA to develop a new transportation proposal that could be taken to the voters for consideration at a future time.

City Clerk Leticia Vacek planned to reveal the results of the signature petition to change the city charter. Although the action taken by the council did not prompt those findings to be disclosed Monday, Vacek said she still plans on presenting the results on August 6 to the council.

The following statement was later released by VIA:

VIA is aware of the action taken this afternoon by the San Antonio City Council. The VIA Board of Trustees will meet Thursday, July 31 at 3:00pm to discuss the details regarding the action taken and will not comment further until the VIA Board of Trustees have an opportunity to formally meet on this matter.

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