Trolley idea gaining traction, but study funding under scrutiny

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 18, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The debate is concerning sidewalk standards. The D.D.A. is being accused of using money for much needed improvements to fund their trolley study.

The Downtown Development Authority is looking to open a new window for people to live, work, and play downtown with Trolleys as the driving force.

"Anything that brings business and people back downtown is good for our building," said Annalee Norwald.

Annalee is property manager at Augusta's newest loft attraction...the J.B. White's building.

"I love trolleys. I think they are so much fun, and they are cute," said Annalee.

But the idea is touching off an ugly debate. The DDA is being accused of using money for sidewalk improvements to fund their trolley study...about $40,000 worth.

"The money would have been much better spent attending to an immediate infrastructure problem than a long range dream," said Augusta commissioner Jerry Brigham.

Commissioner Brigham sent out a mass email that said, "I think spending $40,000 on a trolley study is a waste of taxpayers money big time, and to take money from a sidewalk program to pay for it is disgraceful."

"I agree 100 percent," said Margaret Woodard.

Woodard is director of the Downtown Development Authority. She says they didn't take away money...if anything....they saved it.

"We decided gosh we've got a landscape architect intern in the office...let's use him and save the money," said Margaret.

Of course that freed up room to spend money on the trolley study. "I think we're a little ahead of our time in Augusta. We've been there back in 1910 and decided to take em up," said Brigham.

Unlike the trolley of old...it would be powered by the canal at an estimated cost of $50 million.

"Yes...I mean that is standard around the country, but the interesting thing is if you look at Portland, Oregon they've had 3 billion dollars in redevelopment because of their trolley," said Margaret.

Annalee alone can't make that type of impact, but she's looking to do a little more investing in the city and soon. How soon? "As soon as we get the trolley system downtown and more people downtown...sooner than you think," said Annalee.

The D.D.A. goes before the Augusta Public Services Committee on July 7th.


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