Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Local streetcar effort has several benefits for city

Dave Lippincott Published: November 14, 2013

The article in the Nov. 11 Gazette "Cities hop on streetcars to spur economies" was welcomed by and very relevant to our organization, the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation. Our plans are to acquire through purchase or donation downtown property as a base on which we would operate streetcars to attract attention and support for our follow-on phase, that of putting tracks in the downtown streets. The benefits of increased development and higher tourism and taxes that have accrued to Tucson in the article will certainly be realized by Colorado Springs once the streetcars are operating. Our chosen location on the east side of downtown should complement the plans for the stadium and the Olympic museum of the west side.

Our plans and cost projections differ markedly from those of Tucson, as outlined in the article, however. Tucson's projected cost of $50 million per mile is based on federal funding with a 50 percent local match and includes a difficult transit under a major highway. It also would include storage/maintenance facilities for the streetcars, the cost of the cars ($3.5 million to $5 million for new cars), land acquisition and landscaping, buried utility relocation and, perhaps most costly, the requirement to use Davis-Bacon prevailing wages, to comply with the Buy America Act, and other "lard" Congress has attached to any federal dollars. Also to be included would be a feasibility study, an alternatives analysis, an environmental study and detailed engineering studies, all overseen by a consultant, whose remuneration is based on the overall costs of the project.

Contrast those costs with those our foundation is projecting. Being realists about receiving monies from the city's general fund or through a tax increase to be voted on by the public, we are attempting to construct this system with private, corporate and foundation funding. We are a non-profit foundation and an El Paso County Enterprise business, which provides major tax benefits to our donors, and that should help us considerably. A few very preliminary numbers are in order. Land, buildings, track on the acquired land and moving some of our equipment to it might cost $5 million. We own 18 streetcars, built between 1901 and 1947, and refurbishing them for use downtown will cost up to $650,000 each. We will be seeking sponsors for perhaps four of them initially, which would be all we would need for a downtown operation. We have received very positive feedback from Colorado Springs Utilities about the need to relocate buried utilities and have a fast and inexpensive way to lay track. We believe we could put a mile of track in the downtown area for about $5 million.

We invite the city and the public to learn more about and buy into our project and help make it a reality. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, the public will benefit by experiencing riding historic, restored streetcars, which did so much to contribute to the city's growth 100 years ago. Commuters to downtown could utilize remote parking facilities and reduce downtown traffic. Overall, our transportation system will be improved, and it is well known that businesses looking to locate in a new city consider transportation to be a positive factor.

We have acquired a 1940 electric trolley bus from RTD-Denver, which operates on overhead wire but runs on rubber tires, obliviating the need for tracks where it operates. We also have the capability to construct a small horse-drawn streetcar or to operate a standard streetcar with a power generator car, eliminating overhead wires in sensitive areas.

I need to mention no other city in the country operates horse-drawn streetcars today. What a tourist attraction that would be, and it wouldn't need to be connected to the other streetcar line. Colorado Springs operated them from 1887 to 1890, when its system was electrified.

Our foundation is staffed entirely by volunteers. We survive on membership income, other donations and some grants. We welcome visitors to our facility daily except Sunday, from 10-3. Any questions, please email us at streetcar@pphsrf.com or csstreetcarfdn@aol.com.

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Dave Lippincott is president of the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation.

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