Celebrating Streetcar Progress in 2016, Looking Ahead to 2017

The past year has been an extraordinary one for the LA Streetcar project. As we transition into the new year we wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the progress that’s been made, and to thank the many residents, businesses, and partners that have supported us over the years. We wouldn’t be here without your support and your vision.

Below are some of the key achievements of the past year, some of which you may have missed amongst all the ups and downs of a crazy 2016.

$200 Million in funding secured

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, voters overwhelmingly approved Measure M in November’s election. With a permanent and increased revenue source available, Metro can now expedite and build a number of priority projects including the Purple Line extension, the Eco-Rapid line to the Gateway Cities, bike and walking infrastructure throughout the county, and, of course, the LA Streetcar.

$200 million in 2015 dollars is allocated for the streetcar. Combined with up to $85 million from a Community Facilities District approved by downtown voters in late 2012, this is approximately the amount needed to complete the line (more on the project cost below). The caveat, we hasten to add, is that these funds are currently allocated for 2053.

In 2017, one of our highest priorities will exploring our alternatives and establishing a financial plan that allows us to access much or all of those funds today, rather than 35 years from now. Between early discussions with Metro, meetings with potential private-sector partners, and additional grant funding sources, we’re confident we’ll work out a finalized financial plan before the year is out.

30% design complete

Working with our consultants at Mott MacDonald, the streetcar team also finished 30% design—also known as preliminary engineering—in late 2016. 30% design means that we’ve developed much more detailed drawings and plans for all aspects of the streetcar project: track alignments, vehicle specifications, maintenance and storage facility layouts, and much much more.

Finishing our preliminary engineering puts us in great position for a few key steps forward; the one remaining step for a truly complete 30% design package is finalizing our cost estimate. In mid-2015 we had a project cost estimate of $262 million based on early design work; our 30% design cost estimate is being developed, pending agreements with the Department of Water and Power and a few other details, but it’s looking like the final number will come in very close to our 2015 estimate. And we’ve still got many opportunities to lower project costs, especially through utility agreements and joint-development of our maintenance and storage depot.

Final environmental impact report certified

After a painstaking environmental review process, the final California environmental impact report (EIR) for the LA Streetcar was approved and certified by City Council in late November. EIR approval is critical for moving any major transportation project forward in California, and now allows us to move forward with important next steps such as final design and the purchase of vehicles. The 7th Street alignment was selected as the preferred alternative, with the Grand Avenue Extension as a design option should funding become available. Streetcar storage sites were approved at both 2nd & Broadway and 11th & Olive, but the Broadway site is currently the preferred location (only one will be selected).

Looking ahead to 2017

The coming year will be an important one, with many milestones that LA Streetcar, Inc and our partners at the city hope to achieve.

Finalizing our financial plan, as discussed above, will be key—and we’re working hard to make that happen as quickly as possible. We’re also working with our partners at the Federal Transit Administration to complete federal environmental review. This is the year we want to begin final (100%) design, which is the last step in our saga before construction begins. And we’ll need to begin streetcar vehicle procurement very soon: From the time a contract with a streetcar manufacturer is signed, it can take 3 years for vehicles to be built, shipped, and assembled in LA, so timing is very important.

Have no doubt, we’ll be a busy bunch this 2017. Thank you once again to everyone for your steadfast support, and your commitment to a safer, smarter, more mobile and accessible downtown. With your help, we’re looking forward to another big year!