Trolleys set to return to downtown El Paso

El Paso city council at odds with Downtown Trolleys

EL PASO, Texas -      Trolleys are on the fast track to return to downtown El Paso. But not everyone on City Council is happy about the project or cost associated with it.

     While council did vote to approve a new agency and subsequently funding to get El Paso's street cars up and running again, sparks flew during the discussion in chambers about how or even if to move forward with the project.

     "There is not a day that goes by where our office doesn't get a message indicating how ludicrous this project is," said District 8 Rep. Lily Limon.

     Limon and others on council said that while the streetcar project is mostly being funded by the state, it's not what the city needs or should be doing now.

"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."

     The state has said that these funds can only be used for trolley development, not roads or other transit projects.

     The sentiment that carried the day is that the trolley program is an investment in infrastructure, which the city itself has already put about $5 million in transportation funds into. District 8 Rep. Cortney Niland said that it will be worth it in the long run as it helps spur further development.

     "There is 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 Houghton that can help bring these sorts of funding to our community."

     Ultimately, the vote came down 5 to 3 for the project, with Carl Robinson, Eddie Holguin and Limon voting against.

     With the next stage of the project's approval, city staff expects that ground could be broken within the year.

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