Private Companies Express Interest in Streetcar

Councilman José Huizar's office announced today interest from numerous companies that might be willing to take a financial stake in the L.A. Streetcar project.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Backers of the L.A. Streetcar only have a small fraction of the more than $250 million that it will take to bring the Downtown urban circulator online. However, this afternoon they announced that they have something that could prove valuable in the future: interest from numerous companies that might be willing to take a financial stake in the project.

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The office of 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, who has spearheaded the project as part of his Bringing Back Broadway initiative, said that 24 firms from 19 cities responded to a “request for information,” or RFI, regarding a public-private partnership for the proposed 3.8-mile streetcar. The interested parties, Huizar’s office said, include companies from Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Omaha, Nebraska and even Sweden, Spain and Germany.

The project, initially announced in 2008, has struggled with its cost. Initially pegged at $125 million, it later ballooned as the anticipated price of moving underground utilities on Broadway was factored in. At one point a city analysis put the price as high as $327.8 million. A different report last year pegged it closer to $270 million.

The RFI, released by the city in September, was intended to gather information and generate feedback on the project. Any actual deals would have to wait until another outreach effort, a request for proposals, is completed.

“We knew there were possibilities in developing a public-private partnership for the L.A. Streetcar project, but two dozen firms responding at this early stage shows undeniably strong private sector interest in helping the City of Los Angeles achieve this regionally significant transportation project,” Huizar said in a prepared statement.

The project has secured up to $85 million through a tax on area property owners approved by people who live near the streetcar route. Another $10 million came from the former Community Redevelopment Agency.

Streetcar backers intend to seek up to $75 million from the federal government as part of the Small Starts program. The project has twice failed in efforts to secure federal funds.

However, even if the federal money is secured there would still be a funding gap. That has spurred the effort to find a private partner.

The project would connect the Civic Center and South Park, with a main spine on Broadway. No timeline has been announced.

regardie@downtownnews.com

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2015