Heritage streetcars

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Heritage streetcars was a a proposed transit project for downtown Birmingham made by Larry Langford.

As president of the Jefferson County Commission Langford first brought forward the idea of digging up the old streetcar rails to revive streetcar service in Birmingham in 2004. In December 2007, after he was elected Mayor, Langford directed the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) to develop a heritage streetcar line in the downtown area. According to executive director David Hill, "The mayor was very direct on it. ...If he wants streetcars, I'm going to put them on the street." (Wolfson - Dec. 20, 2007)

Proposed for completion by late 2009, $33 million would be utilized to lay tracks, construct a maintenance building and buy 10 vintage streetcars. Funding for the project would come from an increase in business license fees enacted as part of the Birmingham Economic and Community Revitalization Ordinance. To meet the BJCTA's construction schedule, an advance on expected revenues would have to be paid to the system by the city.

The proposed route will be approximately 2.2 miles in length. Beginning from the Birmingham Central Station, cars would run along Morris Avenue to 20th Street North, then north to Linn Park where they will jog west to 19th Street North and back north, under I-20/59 to the BJCC. There they will make make a u-turn and return to south along 19th Street to the station. An alternate route would return south from Park Place without continuing to the BJCC. A streetcar maintenance facility is proposed in the area of the station. The service is envisioned to stop at each block and run at 10 minute intervals.

The fleet of 10 cars would be antique cars built in 1928 by the city of Milan, Italy. The cars were designed by Cleveland, Ohio transit chief Peter Witt and were used across the United States. San Francisco runs 11 of the same type of cars on the Market Street Railway's F-line. According to Hill, these cars are in operable condition and would need only minor updates, such as air-conditioning, to be put into service. They are being sold for the fraction of the cost of fully-restored vintage cars available in the United States. 6 of the 10 cars would be running at any given time with 4 in reserve.

By late April 2008, the BJCTA announced it was seeking proposals for the design and construction of the streetcar route. The BJCTA announced it would accept proposals through June 30, and is seeking to break ground for the project by November 2008.

In May 2008 the Birmingham City Council began reviewing the mayor's proposed 2009 Birmingham budget. They planned to eliminate the $6 million planned for initiating the streetcar project in order to move the funds to other priorities. Langford blamed himself for not adequately presenting the project and said he would create a 10-minute video to convince the council.

Once Langford was convicted of bribery and conspiracy in the Jefferson County bond swap scandal, the proposal was dropped.

See also

References

  • MacDonald, Ginny (March 7, 2003) "Streetcars would run via mass transit plan." Birmingham News
  • Velasco, Eric (December 27, 2004) "Streetcars could roll by 2010." Birmingham News
  • Wolfson, Hannah (December 20, 2007) "Downtown Birmingham streetcar line proposed for 2009." Birmingham News
  • Oberholzer, Kristin (May 20, 2008) "Transit authority shows plans for Birmingham streetcar system to prospective contractors." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (June 14, 2008) "Langford renews streetcar quest." Birmingham News

External links