Trolleys on track to be back on Main by the end of 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The trolleys are on track to return by the end of the year.

Thursday, WREG was there when MATA tested the first trolley during the day.

After three years, a bright blue trolley is back on the Main Street tracks.

"This is an incredibly important part of the process," said Memphis chief operating officer Doug McGowen.

MATA and federal crews began testing trolleys, tracks and electrical lines along Main Street. They kept WREG at a distance and blocked off a stretch near A.W. Willis just in case anything went wrong.

So far, so good.

"The Main Street line is 3.2 miles in its entirety. It'll be in sections as we move along," said MATA interim CEO Gary Rosenfeld. "It'll be in sections as we move along, so you'll get an idea of what we're between over the next few weeks."

MATA hopes to finish testing by the end of year and start hauling passengers.

They said they'll start off with four trolleys on the Main Street tracks, and then they'll have two available spares.

"Of course we all have the thought 'I'll believe it when I see it,' but it's exciting. I think it's the missing link to development," said Mark Parsell with South Main Sounds.

He said the South Main district took a hit when the trolleys were derailed by fires and other safety problems. He said business in the area reportedly lost millions in revenue.

Tourists just weren't exploring that part of Main without the trolleys.

"The spirit of adventure is missing," he said.

"We've heard that concern. That's why it's imperative that we get these back online," said McGowen.

MATA said once the Main Street trolleys are up and running, they'll work on the Riverfront lines and finally, Madison. That could take another year and a half.

The trolleys reportedly carried 1.5 million passengers a year. A majority were tourists.