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DTLA Streetcar's Budget Wackness Could Push Opening to 2019

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Cost explosions and missed deadlines have some people in City Hall worried the proposed Downtown streetcar won't be operational until 2019. When a streetcar linking South Park and Bunker Hill was first proposed seven years ago, Downtown stakeholders like Councilmember Jose Huizar put the cost at $125 million--but the LA Times discovered that was pretty much a made-up number, calculated by measuring the cost-per-mile of the Portland streetcar. As the project switched hands from the Community Redevelopment Agency--since dissolved by the governor--to the city's transportation department (not Metro, that's a county agency), officials realized the earlier number was in fact pretty laughable. Not only did it not account for inflation, it also didn't include the arduous and expensive task of moving underground utilities. Oops!

By December 2012, when Downtown residents and business owners voted to tax themselves to help pay for the streetcar, LADOT was still staying mum on the new cost estimates. The agency says that's because they didn't officially take over the project until after the election. In a similar vein, Huizar's chief of staff says his office was uncomfortable talking about new cost estimates because "We thought it was too early to go with any kind of number." Huizar's office was also wary of releasing numbers on costs and potential shortfalls because it could screw up chances of winning federal grants.

The latest guess as to the streetcar's cost: more than $327 million. The projected cost of moving utilities is now 20 times more than first anticipated. Huizar's office says this is a worst-possible-scenario-number and it will likely be revised with a new estimate in January. Regardless, the project already missed a September deadline for federal funding, worrying some that the streetcar won't see the light of day for another six years. That's not super good news for all the developers planning projects along the route.
· City Hall staff kept quiet on L.A. streetcar red flags [LA Times]