For 14 years, a salvaged portion of a Southern Pacific Railroad bridge from 1909 gathered dust, waiting to be recycled as main support of the trolley turntable now under construction at Cityplace Station near the West Village. Earlier today, a giant crane lifted the piece of bridge and lowered it into a hole, where it will rotate on tracks to redirect McKinney Avenue Transit Authority's trolleys.
Say what you will about trolleys -- they're charmingly old-fashioned, expensive as all hell and the subject of much hullabaloo around town. Both despite and because of that, more streetcars are moving in and need a place to turn around. The turntable, funded by the Cityplace TIF, willl help to provide faster and more reliable service as the fleet is expanded.
John Landrum, the chief operating officer of the MATA, which runs the streetcars, said that the turntable, scheduled to begin operating in October, will be the only one of its kind in North America. "It's fun," Landrum said, "Anytime you take an idea from its conception and actually see it done in concrete and steel, it's a fulfilling experience."
Jim Reagan, CEO of the Uptown Public Improvement District, which will maintain the surrounding grounds, expects that the turntable and the outdoor plaza will quickly turn the long-vacant plot of land into a tourist area -- "a green space with trees, grass, and places to sit down."
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Most current trolleys are double-sided and don't need a turntable, but a majority of the vintage trolleys available to the city for expansion are single-sided and need a place to change direction. Nonetheless, Landrum said, "The double-ended cars will probably just use it because it's cool."
Now that the trestle is in place, it will be welded to wheels along the track and tested, and a deck with tracks will be built to fill out the rest of the hole. Then, come October, you can lay in the grass sippin' lemonade and watching the streetcars glide by.