The Salt Lake City Council is pledging $2.5 million for the chance to snatch up to $35 million in federal stimulus, which, if awarded, would speed up completion of the Sugar House streetcar to early 2012.
"This is a very exciting day for Sugar House," Councilman Soren Simonsen said Tuesday, predicting the streetcar endeavor will be "emulated around the country."
The money would stretch a long way toward the total project cost of $46 million.
D.J. Baxter, the city's redevelopment agency director, cautioned the odds of getting the federal cash are "fairly low." At the same time, Baxter pointed out some positives. For instance, the Sugar House streetcar is one of the least expensive transit projects among stimulus applicants; And Salt Lake City is far ahead of its competitors in the route planning.
City leaders will find out in January about the fate of the federal funds.
The proposed 2-mile streetcar line would bridge the Central Pointe TRAX station just south of 2100 South at 250 West and 1100 East in the Sugar House business district. It would feature seven stations -- stopping about every two blocks -- and it would run every 30 minutes, more frequently during peak hours.
If unsuccessful, the city could pursue federal dollars through the traditional earmark process, but likely would not get as much.
"This is clearly our best chance," Council Chairman Carlton Christensen said about the stimulus' so-called "TIGER" grant.
Capital officials are looking for ways to lobby for the money and already have met with President Barack Obama's transportation secretary.
Another $2.5 million, the other half of the local match, will be pledged by South Salt Lake.
If Salt Lake City gets the money, it could pay the $2.5 million with redevelopment funds, special assessment areas, or by tapping area sales tax.
Councilman J.T. Martin said he is confident the investment will be returned "many, many times" over.