Streetcars may soon be part of downtown San Antonio.
The city council agreed Thursday morning to fund VIA's Metropolitan Transit Plan, which includes the new rail technology that would run from Broadway to Hemisfair Park, along with a bus circulator route that would connect other parts of downtown.
Multimodal centers and additional transit centers are also part of the plan. Eight city council members, plus Mayor Julian Castro voted in favor of the new plan. Councilman David Medina was not present and Councilman Carlton Soules voted against the measure.
"Is that the best way to spend federal dollars and city dollars, and county dollars if we are going to do a circulator?" asked Soules, when debating the issue.
While some council members had reservations on the issue, most felt it was necessary to move forward. Meanwhile, citizens voiced concerns about the cost of the plan and its effect on tax payers.
"Do not railroad us. Please do not railroad us," screamed Bob Martin, President of the Homeowner Taxpayer Association.
The $180 million dollar project will be funded through $55 million from the city ($15 million of which will come from a yet to be approved assessment district along the corridor), $55 million from Bexar County, and $70 million from VIA.
The proposed route for the streetcar system extends from Broadway, near the Pearl Brewery, to Hemisfair Park, running east and north through downtown. The streetcars are considered rail, and pre-cursors to lightrail. According to VIA, the streetcars are state-of-the-art technology.
"It's not the old cablecars of 50 years ago, this will be very modern state of the art transportation," said Keith Parker, President and CEO of VIA.
Parker said once interlocal agreements are made, they can begin the process of developing the plan immediately, however, the finish date for the project is not slated until 2015.