By Albert Vasquez
The El Paso Streetcar Project is underway and things are looking quite familiar. Six President’s Conference Committee streetcars that were operated in El Paso years ago were sent to Brookville, Pennsylvania to be restored by the Brookville Equipment Corporation. The $97 million dollar project is being handled and managed by The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority and is expected to begin operating for the public at the end of 2017. An open house was held January 28, 2016 at the El Paso City Main Government Library on Oregon St. to allow the community to get a glance at what is to be expected from the project. The open house presented diagrams of the streetcars, maps of the track routes and a history of the El Paso streetcars that were once used.
Public transportation in El Paso began in 1881 with mule-drawn streetcars operating between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. With time the streetcars would be modernized and in 1902 electric streetcars were put into service, but in 1974 streetcar services ended in El Paso. In 2014, the Texas Transportation Commission approved $97 million dollars for the construction of the El Paso Streetcar Project and restoration of the original streetcars used.
The new streetcar route will be 4.8 miles with 27 stops. The route will run in two loops, connecting the international bridges, retail areas, government buildings, convention center and downtown ballpark with the medical center, UTEP and several historical neighborhoods. An addition to the streetcars that people would not have been able to experience in the past will be on-board Wi-FI.
The project is expected to be completed in 2017, which gives the city enough time to get excited about reliving the past. While it is certain that not everyone will be pleased with the El Paso Streetcar Project, the community can be sure that the streetcars will bring a little bit of El Paso’s history back to life.