New trolley service running from The Loop to Forest Park to open for public in late spring
By Nicholas Elmes
If everything goes as planned, by the time summer heat rolls into St. Louis, residents exploring The Loop and Forest Park area will have a new, and old, way of getting around.
“Construction on the Loop Trolley is almost done,” said Loop Trolley Company President Les Sterman. “We are hoping to have it open for the public by late spring, early summer at the latest.”
Once completed, the trolley, which has taken decades to become a reality, will run a 2.2-mile loop connecting the Delmar Loop district with the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
“The Loop trolley will be a big contributor to creating a cohesive neighborhood,” said Sterman. “This area is growing and prospering and we want to contribute to that.”
He said the new transportation system was designed to travel along existing streets and augment the existing MetroLink stations.
The new system will feature restored vintage trolleys that have been a success in other cities with trolley systems.
“It is seen as an experience that will contribute to the overall ambiance of The Loop,” said Sterman. “The experience for a rider to be able to ride in a vintage trolley in a historic neighborhood has real appeal. People will want to take their children and grandchildren. I think it will be the kind of system that people will really want to enjoy.”
But before riders can enjoy the new system, Sterman said his company would have to go through extensive testing of the system, something that will take time.
“Please be patient,” he said. “This is a very highly regulated service. There are a lot of layers of oversight. We have not been able to pin down an opening date yet because a lot of it is dependent on when the state and federal agencies will allow it.”
But, even if residents and visitors to The Loop have to wait to ride them, they will soon see trolleys being tested on the transportation system.
“Hopefully they will be delivered in mid-January,” said Sterman. “Then there is a period of testing that will probably last a couple of months, so we can be sure the trolleys will operate efficiently and safely along the route. For the first bit, they will probably be towed by truck to make sure all of the clearances work.”
That testing period will also give people in the area time to get used to new traffic and parking patterns.
“They have to learn where to park so they are not blocking the track,” Sterman said, noting that new transportation system would actually result in a net gain in parking spaces along its route. “We have a safety brochure that will be going out to merchants along the loop and parking spaces will be clearly marked. Just be aware that the trolley is out there and be careful about how you cross the tracks.”
Of course, older residents of St. Louis may remember a time when trolleys shared the road with traffic in the city. In fact, The Loop derived its nickname from the streetcar system that serviced the area until 1966.
Sterman said he doubted fares for the new system would be as cheap as they were in the 60s but said that while an exact fare structure for the new trolley had not yet been finalized, he estimated it would be similar to MetroLink fares.
“We will be installing fare collection kiosks on each of the platforms,” said Sterman. “They will operate like the multi-space parking kiosks in the city. We are also developing a mobile app, so people will be able to buy tickets on their cell phones.”
He said the kiosks would also be able to offer vend tickets for area attractions and also offer coupons from local merchants.”
Construction of the trolley route has also resulted in over $10 million in additional improvements in the Delmar Loop area including reconstructing the 80-year-old DeBaliviere bridge that runs over MetroLink; building a roundabout at Trinity Ave. in University City; repaving Delmar, from the roundabout to DeBaliviere; repaving DeBaliviere, from Delmar to Forest Park; partnering with Great Rivers Greenway to extend the St. Vincent Greenway from Ruth Porter Park to Forest Park; adding extensive landscaping in the roundabout along DeBaliviere Ave.; adding pedestrian lighting along DeBaliviere and new LED street lighting along a portion of Delmar; replacing nearly all traffic signals located along the route and adding crosswalk buttons, where required, to meet newer ADA regulations; upgrading several intersection ramps to meet ADA requirements; installing communication conduit for future fiber to connect traffic signals within University City; and adding more drainage structures to alleviate existing ponding at some intersections.
Sterman said that while no official opening celebration had been planned for the new trolley yet, he hoped it would be a big celebration.
“This thing has been in planning since 2001,” he said. “We would like to have some very special celebrations when it opens. In the end, we are going to look back and say it has all been worth it and will be one of the great places to be in St. Louis.”
CUTLINE: Submitted photos
Cover-trolley1 This trolley track and overhead catenary wire have been installed near the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park at one end of the new Loop Trolley route.
Cover-trolley2 A new platform station sits along the Loop Trolley route that runs between The Loop and Forest Park.
Cover-trolley3 In addition to the new track and overhead wire along Delmar, new striping for parking spaces have also been placed along the route.
Cover-trolley4 One of the restored vintage trolleys that will soon be carrying passengers along the Loop Trolley route.