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City Council commits to 30 years of funding DTLA streetcar

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, March 07, 2013, at 09:53AM
Courtesy of L.A. Streetcar Inc.

The L.A. City Council approved a plan this week that commits 30 years of funding operations of the proposed DTLA streetcar.

The L.A. City Council approved a plan this week that commits funding to the proposed Downtown streetcar for the next 30 years.

This three-decade plan will cover operations and maintenance of the streetcar, which will be overseen by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). According to a statement from councilman José Huizar's office, the city's financial contribution could total up to $294 million of non-general funds.

Last year, property owners in the area surrounding the streetcar passed a property tax that would help fund half of the streetcar's $125 million budget. Their contributions will go toward to project's design, engineering and construction costs.

This commitment, along with the operational plan from the City Council, make the project about two-thirds of the way funded.

"It's sort of a three legged stool where each sector is only committed to give the dollars if we can secure the dollars from the other two sectors," said Shiraz Tangri, general counsel of L.A. Streetcar Inc.

The streetcar's funding is now dependent on federal contributions, which supporters are looking to secure through the government's Small Starts program and/or other public programs.

“The City Council has joined our private sector partners in making a long-term commitment to operate and maintain the streetcar," said Huizar, whose council district contains the streetcar. "I’m heading to Washington D.C. next week to advocate for federal funding for the streetcar, and this is the kind of commitment that will help us compete for federal dollars in order to complete our construction funding and launch the streetcar by 2016.”

The L.A. City Council approved this operational plan on Wednesday, a day after the city elections placed Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel in a runoff for mayor.

"We built the political support for the project -- it's led by Huizar, but the entire council support for the project -- over several years, and we wanted to ensure that the people who have shown their support and wanted to move the project forward got a chance to do that before they left office," said Tangri.

Huizar will remain in his council role for the next few years, and Tangri said that both Garcetti and Greuel are "very supportive" of the project and will help to keep it moving forward.

But until then, supporters of the streetcar are hoping the current mayor's Washington connections may help with the project's progress.

"Mayor Villaraigosa has very strong relationships in D.C. including with the Department of Transportation given all the things he's done for transit over the last several years...so we're trying to use the remaining time he has in office to help move our project forward as much as we can," said Tangri.

The proposed streetcar would be a modern incarnation of the historic DTLA fixture. Its plotted route is a four-mile loop that circles through highly trafficked (by some residents and many tourists) neighborhoods in Downtown, including L.A. Live and Broadway.

Tangri says that if they continue to stick to the proposed timeline, the streetcar should rolling through Downtown in the next three years.

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