Your Downtown L.A. Streetcar System Is About to Be Designed

Your Downtown L.A. Streetcar System Is About to Be Designed
A Seattle streetcar via Richard Eriksson/Flickr

You know you want it, you bearded hipsters. You want that downtown L.A. streetcar.

It's not a 100 percent sure thing just yet, but here's the good news: The proposal to create a downtown streetcar system is moving into its "preliminary engineering" phase, says the office of L.A. City Councilman José Huizar, a key architect of the plan.

That means the blueprints of how this thing will work will soon be inked.

The folks behind the project, the nonprofit Los Angeles Streetcar Inc. (LASI), "will issue an RFP seeking a design firm for preliminary engineering in the coming weeks," Huizar's office said in a statement.

This design phase could take a year, with a related Environmental Impact Report expected in early 2016, Huizar's folks say.

Backers say that getting this thing down on paper will provide "more cost certainty" while giving those involved in creating a public-private streetcar partnership a solid base, according to Huizar's office.

"We will also soon be moving forward with hiring a financial adviser to create a public-private partnership as we prepare ourselves for a very active next few years," Huizar says.

The streetcar will run on a 3.8-mile loop that would travel along First Street, Broadway, 11th Street, Figueroa Street, Seventh Street or Ninth Street and Hill Street. An optional spur on Grand Avenue will be built if there's funding. Backers are hoping to see the first riders in 2020.

The City Council's Transportation Committee yesterday unanimously endorsed the latest city report on the project, which set a project cost estimate of $250 million.

Your Downtown L.A. Streetcar System Is About to Be Designed
Los Angeles Streetcar Inc.

However, Huizar's office acknowledges that this figure is a little light. There's a funding gap of $110 million here, he says. His office breaks down the funding in a statement:

The Streetcar project has $367.5 million in committed local funding for capital and 30-year operations: $62.5 million in local capital funding via the Community Facilities District (CFD), a special tax approved by downtown voters; $10 million from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and $1 million from the Measure R Local Return Fund for planning, environmental and pre-construction costs; and $294 million in Measure R Local Return Funds to pay for operation of the system over 30 years. It is anticipated that state and federal grants will be sought, including up to $75 million from the FTA Small Starts program, in addition to the intended public-private partnership to address the funding gap. 

As part of the Transportation Committee's approval, the city's Bureau of Engineering gets to hire a full-time staffer dedicated to the project. City engineer Gary Lee Moore says:

By continuing to add to the city’s multimodal transportation system, we are working together to transform Los Angeles into the world's most livable city.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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