Vintage postcard from Huntington showing trolley on Fourth Avenue

This report contains the results of a study undertaken by Sam St.Clair on behalf of the Huntington Electric Trolley Association (HETA), of Huntington, West Virginia, to assess the feasibility of constructing and operating a vintage streetcar line on Huntington's Fourth Avenue. The study examines the appropriateness and historical context of a rail-based streetcar system designed to provide a transit alternative to the visitors, students, and residents. It provides information on similar undertakings, both in operation and planned, in other localities. It analyzes the problems and opportunities of installing the system along an alignment where streetcars once operated. It develops capital and operating cost estimates and suggests funding sources. Finally, it recommends actions which should be undertaken to move the project forward.

Project Goals

To provide information on comparable operating and planned vintage streetcar systems in cities throughout the United States.

  • To suggest a specific route and alignment for a vintage streetcar system in Huntington.
  • To evaluate various vehicle technologies and recommend a suitable vehicle.
  • To develop a range of operating scenarios.
  • To provide rough order of magnitude capital costs for the system.
  • To provide estimates of annual operating costs for various operating scenarios.
  • To provide information on available funding sources.
  • To provide an outline of steps by which the project could be implemented.

Key Project Issues

The most significant technical issue for the proposed streetcar system is that of fitting a suitable alignment into Fourth Avenue's development. Realizing that the street cannot be significantly widened, its 60'+/- typical width precludes a bi-directional streetcar track. The proposed alignment will require adjustments in traffic flow and/or parking availability. Thus, it is important that the issue be thoroughly aired and a workable consensus reached by the community.

A second key issue is that of funding. Many vintage trolley systems are in cities where the population and tax base are of a size that raising local funds to match State and Federal dollars is fairly straightforward. The local population of Huntington is clearly not of this magnitude. This calls for very creative financing, and may require a larger than usual Federal and State role.

This expanded role may be justified, however, when the purpose of the system is considered. Although it is expected that local residents, and Marshall University students will use the line, it is our hope that a major portion of ridership will come from visitors. In serving these markets, the streetcar is intended to preserve the irreplaceable character of the Historic Downtown District, while reducing auto traffic and associated negative environmental impacts. This goal puts the project within the overall eligibility guidelines for Federal transit assistance under recently-enacted legislation. In addition, the undeniable value of the Downtown District as a visitor venue, and the desire to preserve it, is consistent with other Federal programs which are developing non-auto transportation projects to preserve and enhance the attractiveness of urban communities.

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