Mayor: Trolley could be next downtown Cape upgrade

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trolleys are a popular way to explore many downtown districts throughout the country. Visitors park, step on board and are carried to shopping, dining and entertainment for a relatively small price. The getting there and back becomes part of the experience, and it's one Cape Girardeau's mayor wants see to happen here.

Adding at least one trolley to downtown is an idea Mayor Harry Rediger believes could help solve issues that have arisen or have been mentioned as potential problems with the construction of the Broadway corridor and Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, both of which were finished and opened last month.

"This, in my mind, brings two things to the table. It alleviates parking issues, and it moves people," Rediger said.

Completion of the Broadway corridor meant parking spaces were eliminated along the street's north side and reduced on the south side to make room for a pedestrian promenade and other features of the new streetscape. A concern the mayor heard during the process that brought the casino to town was that downtown would be bypassed and forgotten as visitors streamed toward the newest form of entertainment. The idea of adding a trolley to take visitors from parking through the downtown area is one the mayor said has been talking about for about a year. How a trolley would be run, who would run it and where the money would come from are still unknown, but Rediger said he is hopeful a committee to look at the idea can be formed by around the first of 2013.

"I want to see people working with this to see what is the best way to do it," he said. "There are all kinds of logistics to work out."

Rediger said he has heard of interest in participation on the committee from the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, Old Town Cape, the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Merchants Association.

Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, said the idea is one with great potential.

"Making it easy for people to move around downtown would be a great asset," she said.

But Mills agrees with the mayor that there would need to be much analysis and discussion before any moves are made.

"It's something that would be really easy to jump right into, but I just think we need to make sure it's done in the best way we can, to work the way we want it to work and do the things we want it to do," she said.

The mayor said a trolley would solidify downtown Cape Girardeau as a tourist destination.

"The thing about it is I think it would elongate the stay for people," he said. "Right now they run downtown to one place and shop, or run in and eat and leave."

Cape Girardeau had a trolley system from 1893 to 1934, according to Southeast Missourian archives. The system changed to electric street cars in 1904. Portions of the rails were found hidden beneath the street during the construction of the Broadway corridor.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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