Repairs to begin soon to get downtown trolleys back on track

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The city is getting closer to the iconic trolleys once again running in downtown Memphis.

MATA announced it will soon stop running the trolley buses on the Main Street Mall so repairs can be made to the trolley tracks.

The trolleys stopped running several years ago when they started catching on fire.

It’s been a long wait for many shop owners downtown who say the trolleys can’t come soon enough.

The repairs need to be made to the cobblestone and rails along Main.

People WREG talked to said they can’t wait for things to get back on track.

You’ll have to wait a little longer to catch a ride, but the wheels are set in motion. Repairs are set to start on the tracks May 8.

"We certainly have people asking all the time when are the trolleys coming back," said Karen O'Malley.

O’Malley works at Muse Inspired Fashion off Main and Gayoso.

She said since the trolleys went offline she knows of businesses along Main that took a hit.

She sees the buses that look like trolleys roll by everyday, but she’s ready for the return of the real deal.

"I think it would be a big deal, and I think it would attract more people," she said.

MATA said it will cost more than $10 million to fix rail trolleys, repair track and cobblestone pavers and upgrade equipment to comply with new federal standards. Almost $7.5 million is federally funded, another $1 million comes from the state and $2 million comes from the city’s pocket. This is only for the return of trolley service to Main Street.

"We can’t get these trolleys back online fast enough," said Terence Patterson, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission.

Patterson says the trolleys will boost tourism, local businesses and keep downtown connected.

"This is the primary means and most efficient means to get from the south end, all of the great amenities that are coming with Central Station, the movie theater coming, great shops and development on that end all the way to the development that’s coming in the Pinch," he explained.

Right now early estimates of when the trolleys will return is by the end of the year.

Due the repairs buses won’t be running on Main during some peak times for business like Memphis in May, O'Malley acknowledged that issue but said it’s worth it in the long run.

The trolley buses will still operate along Second Street going southbound, Front Street going northbound and between Exchange and Peabody Place at fixed bus route stops.