EL PASO, Texas - State Rep. Joe Pickett has come out against the proposed $97 million trolley project, saying that he "cannot, in good faith, support this type of project at this time with so little input from the public and such little truth about the funding and plan."
In a letter to community members, Pickett says that the $97 million does not just have to be used for the trolley project but can be used for "widening I-10, needed improvements to Spur 601, the Northeast parkway…"
Read Pickett's full letter at http://bit.ly/1k64IJJ
"The problem I have about the fall statements is the urgency factor, and casting the fear of ‘use it or lose it,'" Pickett says in the letter.
"This project was included in the region's long term plan as being federally funded with federal transit start up dollars," Pickett says in the letter. "This was a stretch, but none the less, somebody convinced others that would be the source of the money."
Pickett finishes the letter by saying, "If all the facts were allowed to be told, there may have been a different outcome. This secrecy and lack of day light has to stop. Regardless of the source, it is tax dollars, your tax dollars. We should all be asking questions like; What are the annual operating costs? Will it be built under budget? Is this the best use of the money? On and On. Who is really looking at the big picture?"
Last week, El Paso City Council voted 5-3 to approve a new agency and funding for the trolleys.
City Reps. Carl Robinson, Eddie Holguin, and Lily Limon voted against the motion.
Sparks flew at that City Council meeting about how or even if to move forward with the project.
Limon and others on City Council said that while the project is mostly being funded by the state, it's not what the City should be doing now.
"There is not a day that goes by where our office doesn't get a message indicating how ludicrous this project is," Limon said.
The state has said that these funds can only be used for trolley development, not roads or other transit projects.
"When we look at $97 million, and trying to justify that," Limon said. " (Texas Department of Transportation district engineer) Bob Bielek attended one of our community meetings, and he indicated that quite possibly we have the worst state highways in the city of El Paso."
Those in favor of the trolley program said during last week's City Council meeting that it is an investment in infrastructure and that the City itself has already put about $5 million in transportation funds into it.
"There are no negatives to this," Niland said. "There is noting but positive coming out of this. It's a way to grow our tax base. It's a way that other communities have done so. And we're just fortunate enough to have leaders like Chairman (Ted) Houghton that can help bring these sorts of funding to our community."
City staff expects ground to be broken on the project within the year.