SAN ANTONIO -- VIA Metropolitan Transit would like to get streetcars moving Downtown, and the controversial plan just received a new source of funding through a partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation.
Commuters, tired of traffic, like the idea.
"We need to do something because the traffic is getting tougher everyday," said Richard Courchesne.
Thursday, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and VIA Board Chairman Henry Munoz announced a new agreement bringing $92 million in additional funding for the streetcar project.
"People will move in closer to the central city, where we will have a first class transit system, less need for automobiles, and less pollution," said Wolff.
The new financing agreement could help avoid a time consuming lawsuit stemming from debate about whether tax money is actually being used to pay for light rail.
In 2004, voters agreed to a fourth-of-a-cent sales tax to create the Advanced Transportation District, or ATD. Its purpose is to improve and expand mass transit. However, voters did not want that to include light rail. Critics, like Jeff Judson, don't see much difference between streetcars or light rail.
"They are still violating the same promise that they were violating before," said Judson. "Before they were using ATD money to build light rail. Now, they are swapping money with TxDOT, so they can use that same amount of money for light rail."
Judson is director of the Heartland Institute
, a free market advocacy group. He plans to follow pay close attention to this planned streetcar system.
The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees TxDOT, is expected to vote on the appropriation of state money on November 15th. Wolff said he planned to attend the meeting, and, despite opponents, he thinks the streetcar project is a good idea for city growth and business development.
"It's a win, win for everybody," added Wolff. "We still have our detractors, but I'm convinced San Antonio is headed in the right direction."