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El Paso Streetcars to Symbolize Transnational Ties

The Texas city is moving ahead on plans to refurbish its old trolleys into a 21st-century streetcar system. The aim is to resurrect an old route that traversed the border to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
June 6, 2017, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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It's part preservation project, part transit investment, part international overture. Spearheaded in part by El Paso City Representative Peter Svarzbein, the El Paso Streetcar will refurbish the city's derelict Art Deco trolleys. Rina Raphael writes: "From 1949 to 1974, streetcars made daily jaunts between the two cities. During its heyday, the service averaged more than 600 trips a day."

The Texas Department of Transportation funded stage one of the project in 2014 to the tune of $97 million. "Construction is already well underway for the first leg, which will stay within the confines of El Paso. The second cross-border leg is still in the discussion stage but the momentum is real."

Supporters point to a vibrant transnational economy that challenges stereotypes of a border-zone no-man's land. Says Svarzbein, "We can be against [President Trump's] wall all day, but what are those things that we're for? What do we communicate that we we want to see here?"

The streetcar line would take advantage of existing border-crossing infrastructure. "The trail would build upon an existing bridge and therefore doesn't require a U.S. presidential permit." Backers also note that the president's plans for a wall wouldn't mean much in El Paso, where a barrier is already in place.

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Published on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 in Fast Company
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