By Laura J. Nelson, September 2, 2014
An artist's rendering shows the proposed streetcar line near 6th and Hill streets.
Building a streetcar line in downtown Los Angeles may cost about $55
million less than officials had previously said — an estimate that has
buoyed the spirits of the project's boosters, including City Councilman
But the lower price tag of about $270 million could
still complicate the city's bid for a $75-million construction grant, a
crucial portion of the streetcar funding plan. Projects that cost more
than $250 million must compete for federal dollars alongside the
nation's most expensive and sophisticated transit proposals, including
Last fall, the initial cost for the transit loop more than doubled to
$327 million. Consulting firm URS Corp., hired by the city to draw up a
new estimate, says the four-mile route could be built for about $270
million, according to a final draft of the analysis obtained by The
Sources familiar with the cost-estimate process who spoke
on the condition of anonymity said it's unlikely that the numbers will
change significantly before the Los Angeles City Council receives a
A spokesman for the city's Transportation Department said it would be
"inappropriate to comment on a draft document." Officials will have a
final cost estimate in two to three weeks, said James Lefton, the
department's executive officer of transit services.
streetcar line still faces a significant funding gap: A tax district
approved two years ago by downtown voters would raise as much as $85
million. If the Federal Transit Administration gives the project the
full $75-million grant it seeks, that would still leave a funding gap of
more than $100 million. To make up the difference, Huizar spokesman
Rick Coca said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the city plans to
arrange a public-private partnership.
The new cost estimate is "excellent news," Coca said. He added that he expects expenses to fall as engineers begin their work.
downtown trolley has been publicly discussed for nearly a decade, since
L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency began pushing for a partial
rebirth of the streetcar network that once crisscrossed Southern
California. Streetcar supporters, including Huizar, hoped tracks in the
ground could accelerate what was, at that point, downtown's nascent
The route approved by local officials would start on
1st Street and run south on Broadway, west on 11th Street, north on
Figueroa Street, east on 7th Street and north on Hill Street. Then the
tracks would proceed north to Grand Avenue, turning around near the Walt
Disney Concert Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Avenue segment will probably be put on hold, Coca said, cutting about
$15 million from the immediate project cost. Deferring construction
could reduce ridership and add to the city's long-term costs, analysts
wrote, because more environmental study might be needed later on.
land for a maintenance facility for the streetcars could cost $28
million, analysts said in the draft report. Coca said the city is
considering a joint development on that property to offset some costs.
"The city is highly unlikely to purchase a piece of prime real estate in
the middle of downtown and do nothing with it except build our
maintenance facility," Coca said. The contingency budget of 30% will
probably shrink, he said.
The city could also save nearly $19
million by running the streetcar along 9th Street, rather than 7th
Street, because utility lines are sparser there and relocating them
would cost less, the report said. But analysts say moving tracks away
from 7th Street's restaurant row and the nearby subway stop could reduce
In federal filings, city officials said the
streetcar line's environmental review documents will be finished next
spring, a year later than expected. They hope the $75-million grant will
be awarded in the summer of 2016.
The draft report says the project could start service by the end of 2019.