VIA streetcar project loses city backing

$32 million of city money going elsewhere

SAN ANTONIO – UTSA professor Dr. Francine Romero believes it speaks volumes that the city no longer backs the VIA streetcar project.

She said when thousands of people signed a petition against the project, it was a sign.

"It indicates that they're frustrated, they don't understand it, they at least want more information," said Romero.

While proponents say it will relieve downtown traffic congestion and bring more jobs to the city, others say it's a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

The streetcar project was slated to cost nearly $800 million; about $100 million VIA received from TxDot, and $32 million from the city. Now that the city has distanced itself from the streetcar project and plans to redirect those dollars to other urban development initiatives Romero said it's clear the City Council will not support VIA's streetcar plan without a public vote.

"I think they're saying I think the more important thing for me right now is park and ride or more highway lanes and I don't completely understand how a 3-mile streetcar route is really going to make that difference," said Romero.

While the VIA streetcar project may be getting pushback, that doesn't mean it will ultimately fail. There are several cities where a rail project was derailed but eventually approved.

In Austin four years after a rail project was first proposed and rejected, repackaging of the plan was approved. Romero said VIA may be too far along to change course.

"They're in a very difficult situation because funds have been committed. They're pretty far down the road for all this to be happening to them now," said Romero.