LOOP TROLLEY: Challenges Expected As Track Work Begins

Some retailers in the Delmar Loop are bracing for traffic and parking challenges as Loop Trolley contractors begin laying track down the middle of the busy thoroughfare.

“Businesses are going to take a hit from this. Business is OK so far, but when they start laying track and closing things down, it is going to be worse,” said Jeff Weintrop, co-owner of The Silver Lady at 6364 Delmar Blvd.

Weintrop said he anticipates a downturn in store traffic and sales.

“I just returned from a (merchandise) buying show, and I bought considerably less than I would normally in anticipation that we will not have the traffic,” he said.

Johnathan Ruder is co-owner of GoMusicSTL at 6513 Delmar Blvd. He said the elimination of some curb parking will exacerbate an existing problem, but added that “parking is always an issue here.”

Cathy Gregory Studio Gallery
Ruder said his business is down a bit, but does not point to trolley line construction as the cause.

“The trolley has not impacted me negatively,” Ruder said. “It will impact us positively as soon as it gets going.”

“The Loop Is Open”

The Loop Special Business District, Loop Trolley backers and other partners recently launched “The Loop Is Open” campaign to communicate the fact that the Loop remains accessible to patrons.

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch, who also serves on the board of the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District (TDD), said the campaign was conceived “to encourage people not to stay away. When they know construction is coming, they tend to stay away from the area.”

Eleanor Ruder, Johnathan Ruder’s mother, owns the Componere Gallery at 6509 Delmar. Her business is booming, despite ongoing pressure on available parking.

“We’re working together to make this work,” she said. “I am really looking forward to when the trolley is finished because it will really help people get around the Loop.”

Track Installation

Before that can happen, two sets of track must be installed in pavement. Work on the eastbound track, located on the south side of Delmar, was scheduled to begin on June 15. Actual track installation should begin during the week of July 22, according to Chris Poehler, a transit engineer and TDD administrator.

According to Poehler, workers will be laying track in sections. The first stretch to be trenched and tracked is the western end of Delmar between Kingsland and Melville avenues. Work in that section should take about three weeks, Poehler said. Construction crews will then move east, trenching and tracking two blocks at a time before turning around and moving back in sections to install the westbound tracks on the north side of Delmar, he added.

All construction, including power poles and overhead wires, should wrap up in the third quarter of 2016, Poehler said.

Loop businessman and promoter Joe Edwards, who is also chairman of the TDD, said he hopes that track through the Loop will be completed before the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

“That is a concern of merchants,” Edwards said. “We are trying to finish track installation before Thanksgiving so it won’t interfere with the holiday season, but there is no guarantee.”

Edwards said track laying operations are potentially the most disruptive to motorists and merchants alike, but he said disruptions should be manageable.

“Both (Delmar) traffic lanes will be open like they have been for decades, and sidewalks will be open with access to all of the stores,” Edwards said. “The only difference is that during construction there will be no parking on the two blocks they will be working on. It’s a fairly simple process. They dig 20 inches down, track it, repave it, reseal it, and move on to the next section.”

Poehler explained that, during track laying, three lanes of five-lane Delmar will be devoted to construction. Two lanes will carry traffic, and on-street parking will be prohibited. One parking lane will be a construction zone, and another parking lane will carry traffic. The only road closure, officials said, is access to Leland Avenue on the south side of Delmar.

“We are doing everything we can to make it as smooth as possible,” Edwards said. “Everyone should keep in mind that this is a $43 million project that will bring in lots of people to the Loop. Construction should be no more than three weeks in front of any given business, and it’s just a matter of losing a few parking spaces temporarily.”

That’s just what Loop merchants are hoping.

Trolley Track Installation Underway

• Crews set up traffic controls on the south side of Delmar June 15 to prepare for installation of trolley tracks. Work will begin just east of Kingsland Avenue and proceed eastward to just west of Melville Avenue.

Traffic Redirected To Two Lanes

• East- and west-bound Delmar Boulevard traffic will be temporarily redirected to single lanes on the north side of Delmar. Traffic will use the existing west-bound traffic lane and the parking lane on the north side of Delmar. Temporary traffic controls will remain in place through completion of Phase I track installation.

• North-south bound traffic on Kingsland Avenue will remain open throughout trolley track installation and construction of the roundabout.

• Leland Avenue, south of Delmar, is the only street access that will be closed during Phase I track installation. Leland North of Delmar will remain open.

Forest Park Parkway Closed June 19-21

• The Forest Park Parkway at DeBaliviere Avenue will close June 19-21 while workers set beams for the DeBaliviere Bridge.

• The DeBaliviere Bridge at DeBaliviere Avenue and Forest Park Parkway will remain closed to traffic through September 2015.

For construction updates, visit: info@looptrolley.com

West End Word © June 2015

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