Closings and delays

Winston-Salem streetcar study costs $700K

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Winston-Salem is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a study aimed at figuring out if the city's downtown core is the right fit for streetcars.

The $700,000 study will determine if the city needs what's called an urban circulator.

Stan Polanis with the city's Department of Transportation said they have to find out if there's interest and whether that interest is for street cars or something else.

"An urban circulator can be a streetcar, can be some kind of a special, fancy bus, could be a rubber tire trolley, could be enhanced, regular bus service," Polanis said.

The federal government, the state and the Piedmont Authority on Regional Transportation are picking up the entire cost of the study.

City leaders said spending that money is worth it and is the only way Winston-Salem would qualify for more federal money to fund the project should the study reveal it is warranted.

Places like Portland, Oregon have added streetcars with great success, Polanis said.

"The places that have done this streetcar and light rail and those things have seen lot of return on investment in terms of development along the tracks," Polanis said.

But some local business owners aren't so sure streetcars are worth the estimated cost of $20 million to $40 million per mile.

"It's a fascinating idea, but is it feasible?" said John Cahoon, owner of Encore Bistro. "Does it make sense? Are there better things we could do in the meantime? Now that's another question."

Many public comment meetings about are scheduled for the coming months. The city hopes to have the feasibility study completed by the end of the year.