Planned Return of Clinton Trolley on Hold
The Clinton trolley that debuted in summer 2019 was slated to return this summer, but now that seasonal tourism and shopping are uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, those plans are now up in the air.
The free-to-ride trolley began as a joint venture between the Placemakers, the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Commission (EDC). The goal of the project was to encourage people to visit the different sections in town in a fun manner that would help draw more visitors to town.
Town funds are not used to operate the trolley. Instead, donations from local advertisers are used to cover the cost of decorating the trolley, as well as to pay for the driver and gas. The trolley is operated and housed by 9 Town Transit, the region’s public transportation provider.
EDC Chairman John Allen said that due to the economic impacts of the outbreak such as closed businesses and furloughed employees, it is unclear how much advertisers will be able to donate to the trolley this year.
Allen said it costs $16,000 to run the trolley. Many of the advertisers are local restaurants, which have been hit particularly hard.
“We’re all in a hold position,” Allen said.
The trolley has not been officially canceled and Allen said he is not aware of a drop-dead date for when the service would no longer be feasible.
“I would say we could do a modified version,” Allen said. It might be possible to run it for shorter hours or to start the service later in the summer.
Before the COVID outbreak, the EDC had made significant progress on bringing the trolley back.
“We were really cooking with gas, then this all happened,” Allen said.
Last year the trolley made seven stops: Clinton Crossings Premium Outlets, the train station, the marina area, the downtown at Liberty Green, the Stop & Shop plaza, the ShopRite plaza, and a stop near the Westbrook line.
This year the group was planning to eliminate some of the lesser-used stops. Instead the route was proposed to run from the outlets to the end of Commerce and Grove streets to allow people easy access to popular destinations like Lobster Landing and Shanks Restaurant, and then to Brewers Pilot Point Marina in Westbrook.
“People come by boat and don’t have a car so it’s really a utility for them,” Allen said.
While he acknowledged that getting the trolley running isn’t the number one priority for most people during these uncertain times, Allen was hopeful that the EDC, Placemakers, and the chamber might be able to find a way to get the trolley running this summer.
“Having the town bounce back this summer and have a normal life is important. It’d be great for this town in the summer to watch this thing go back and forth,” said Allen.