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Streetcar on Metro Ballot Measure Funding List, But Officials Hope to Speed Up Timeframe

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Streetcar on Metro Ballot Measure Funding List, But Officials Hope to Speed Up Timeframe

DTLA — Proponents of the long-planned Downtown streetcar have spent years looking for funding sources to cover the project that currently is estimated to cost $282 million.

Now, a proposed $120 billion county ballot measure to fund regional transportation projects with a half-cent sales tax increase could prove the key to the streetcar.

A report from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released this morning has identified $200 million for the Downtown streetcar. It is among hundreds of transportation projects that would be funded by the proposed tax increase, which itself would bolster the Measure R tax increase passed by voters in 2008.

The Metro report places funding for projects in three phases over the next 40 years. One potential issue is that the Downtown streetcar is currently in the third phase, which would call for completion of the project around 2050, well after its hoped-for opening in 2020.

The office of 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, who is leading the streetcar effort, told Downtown News it will work with Metro on the possibility of expediting “shovel-ready” projects into the first phase.

“This ballot initiative funding would complete the financial picture for this important regionally significant circulator project,” Huizar said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work diligently with Mayor Garcetti, Metro, the City, LASI and all our partners, as we work toward a 2020 opening date for the Los Angeles Streetcar.”

The $200 million earmarked for the streetcar would close its funding gap, assuming its budget can be brought down to $250 million (as streetcar proponents announced they plan to do last summer). The project, which would run in a 3.8-mile loop with a main spur on Broadway, has already secured $65 million for construction via a tax levied on property owners along the route. It is also still in the hunt for a $100 million federal “Small Starts” grant.

“The $200 million gives us options, and preferably we wouldn’t have to secure the federal Small Starts grant,” said Huizar’s Chief of Staff Paul Habib in a phone interview. “But it is there should we need it, and we’re not pulling out of the grant process. It’s just another opportunity for funding.”

Streetcar officials have also explored bringing in a private partner to help fund the project, which was first announced in 2008 as part of Huizar’s bringing Back Broadway initiative.

Preliminary engineering and design efforts have begun, with 30% of the work expected to be finished by the end of the year. A draft of the project’s environmental impact report will be released this summer and completed by the end of 2016, according to Huizar spokesman Rick Coca.

Streetcar construction is projected to begin in 2018.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly noted a $75 million federal Small Starts grant. It is $100 million.