The Galveston Intermodal Transportation Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to send a letter to the Park Board of Trustees urging the use of hotel occupancy tax funds to support the track trolley, which has been out of operation since Hurricane Ike. Listen (56:25)
Transportation Consultant Barry Goodman noted the presence of Norman Pappous, the city council’s ex-officio representative on the committee, who had spoken in opposition to the use of tax funds to restore the trolley system at the recent city council workshop. Pappous insisted that if the trolley is to be rehabilitated it should be with hotel occupancy taxes or other funding currently supporting the tourism industry.
“I’m glad that Norm stopped in because he and I are at least on the same page on one fundamental proposition here,” Goodman said. “The broader perspective of tourist transit must come out of some other resource. Island Transit needs every penny it can gain to support the services.”
“One of the things that is most telling, is the park board put it in writing that they don’t want the trolley,” Pappous said. “They want the rubber wheel, the tires. If the tourist industry doesn’t want it, why should the citizens pick it up?”
“I don’t agree with you that they’ve said that,” Goodman responded. “I was there at several meetings; I was there at the meeting they passed the resolution. What I heard is that…at a minimum, they want rubber tire, but they’re willing to support rail, as long as they have rubber tire.”
“If they’re willing to cut the check, I’m fine with that,” Pappous said.
“When (Park Board Executive Director) Kelly de Schaun was here talking to us, she seemed very pro-transportation and pro-the trolley,” said Janet Hoffman. She seemed very, like ‘Yeah, we’re getting ready to tell city council we want to bring it back. We want to bring it back.’ Now, I may have misheard her. I was sitting next to her.”
The motion to ask Goodman to draft the letter to the park board was by Addie Pappous and seconded by Hoffman and was approved unanimously.
After the discussion, Goodman summarized what he plans to put in the draft.
“The ITC voted to request that the city approach the Park Board of Trustees and request a firm commitment of HOT taxes collected by the park board (not city ‘trickle down’), toward tourist transit services beginning as of FY2018 (October, 2017),” Goodman said. “This will enable the city to determine the merits of returning the rail trolley into service. The park board’s commitment of funding last year, in the amount of $300,000 was out of city trickle down HOT funding; a decision that the park board has no authority to make."
"This has probably been the best, knowledge-based, informative discussion I've heard ever on the trolley and the rail, in terms of history," said Hank Thierry, chair of the ITC.
John Carrara of The Goodman Corporation reported that Turner Construction Company is actively working on the downtown transportation terminal at 25th Street and The Strand. Listen (3:25)
“They are completing the foundations and pile caps with their subcontractor right now,” Carrara said. “They are also continuing to do repairs to the Fadden Building next door, to the east of the site.”
He said the project is now anticipated to be completed in time for opening in July.
“If they are able to achieve that, in August or September we can have an opening of the facility,” Carrara said.
The next meeting of the ITC will be at 3:30 p.m. on February 18.