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          Front Page




San Mateo-to-Downtown Streetcar Route Urged

By Dan Mckay
Journal Staff Writer
      Albuquerque should focus on building a modern streetcar system along Central Avenue between Downtown and San Mateo if it decides to proceed with the project, according to a consultantís report.
    That stretch of the city is the best bet for a successful start to the system, the presentation from Leland Consulting Group said. Demographics and market forces in the area would support the project, the group said.
    The presentation was provided Tuesday afternoon to a City Hall task force studying transportation options in Albuquerque. Hereís a look at what was said:
    * The streetcar system could draw about 5,000 riders a day on the Downtown-to-San Mateo segment.
    * Each streetcar can carry up to 100 people, though the cars can be linked together to serve up to 200 people.
    * The capital cost for launching the system is likely to reach about $106 million on the recommended segment, or about $28 million a mile, the presentation said. Annual operating costs would run about $3.9 million.
    * Revenue from extending the life of a quarter-cent sales tax, Tax Increment Development Districts, naming rights, advertising and other sources could fund the project. Only a fairly small portion of the revenue generated by the sales tax would be needed for the streetcar system in some scenarios.
    * Revenue from TIDDs could be significant and donít require increasing city tax rates, but they require complex public votes of residents and property owners.
    * Tourists might use the system if itís extended west through the BioPark and Old Town areas.
    * A streetcar system like Portlandís or Seattleís is the best option for Albuquerque, with the system running in one of the regular lanes of traffic, for the most part, or in medians or extra lanes when possible.
    * A maintenance station could be built at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central or on vacant land near Washington and Central.
    * The project could spur hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment along the corridor over a 20-year period.
    The consultant is to provide a final report in two weeks.
    The transportation task force is developing a report to submit to the mayor and City Council by Sept. 1. The panel, led by Councilor Isaac Benton, is examining the feasibility of a streetcar system and whether to extend a quarter-cent sales tax the city uses to fund transit programs.
    Benton, as chairman, is a nonvoting member of the task force.
    He said the consultantís report indicates the modern streetcar system would work well as a replacement of the popular Route 66 bus line. It would also serve the goal of building a denser corridor in the center of the city, Benton said.