FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Standing on the corner of 7th St. and Throckmorton Ave. Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Mike Moncrief presented onlookers with what he hopes will eventually shuttle residents around the city: A modern streetcar.
“Streetcars aren’t something a lot of us remember in this city,” Moncrief said.
The mayor said the streetcar, which will be on display there until Thanksgiving, was a vital part of Fort Worth from the 1850s through the early part of the 20th Century.
And with the city’s growing gridlock and congestion, Moncrief hopes the streetcar will be a sufficient solution.
That is, if the city can finance it.
There is $25 million in federal funds available to the city to go toward improving its public transportation, but Fort Worth will still have to spend more than $50 million out of its own revenue or find donations from private developers. City officials also have to decide to bite by the end of the year.
“That’s going to be the big question, how are we going to finance something like this,” asked District 7 councilman Carter Burdette.
Burdette suggested that businesses along the route should step in and help the city pay for the streetcar system. He argues the private sector will get the most out of the public transportation, and should help the city with the cost.
“I think if (businesses) are going to get this value added, they should step forward and be the ones to finance this streetcar system,” Burdette said.
Moncrief shared a similar opinion, saying these projects “work best when everybody has skin in the game.” He then acknowledged that the city would have to come up with money if it wants the system.
“Either way, I fail to see how any kind of public transportation is going to pay for itself,” Moncrief said. “I don’t know where it happens, or if it happens. I’ve never seen that.”
Experts advise that city leaders begin considering long-term revenue sources to help offset costs. But there would be potential payoffs: A consultant study commissioned by the city estimated a $335 million impact just from the first stage of the streetcar rail’s construction. But destinations for that first section of the rail are a sticking point to some on the council.
“I don’t want to see folks in southeast Fort Worth, it would be 30 years before they see their piece of the pie,” said District 8 councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, whose district sits in southeast Fort Worth.
Initial studies have the first route shooting from LaGrave Field in the north to the Hospital District in the south, then running through downtown. Eventually, city leaders hope the streetcar would service all of Fort Worth.
The council has fast-tracked the vote into the beginning of December, so they can agree to take the federal money or leave it alone. A citywide town hall style meeting to discuss the streetcar rail is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, located at 1201 Houston St. downtown.
“That’s always the issue; the funding, and whether the state and federal grants are going to come in or not,” said Eric Smith, a Fort Worth resident and streetcar supporter.