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City Council settles on a route for the Downtown Streetcar

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Measure M dollars could help get the mini transit system up and running by 2020

Plans for a new streetcar system servicing Downtown Los Angeles keep chugging right along, with the LA City Council unanimously certifying the project’s environmental impact report at its Tuesday meeting.

The council also agreed on a route for the streetcar, which will travel in a one-way loop that begins at 1st and Broadway and proceeds south to 11th Street, where it turns west until Figueroa; it then heads north up to 7th, where it heads back east before one final northward climb along Hill Street. Another proposed route would have taken the car along 9th instead of 7th Street.

The council also chose not to pursue an extension of the line to Grand Avenue unless additional funding for the project should become available.

Now that the project has been approved, figuring out a way to pay for it will be the next step. Currently, the city needs about $282 million in capital costs to begin work on the line. Fortunately, voters recently approved Measure M, which will provide billions of dollars in funding for transit projects once it goes into effect in 2017.

Metro’s plan for Measure M spending does include funds for the streetcar, but the project is pretty far down on the agenda. In fact, it’s not scheduled to break ground until 2053. The council, however, is hoping Metro will be willing to prioritize the streetcar, since it’s one of only a few projects that will be ready to begin construction by next year.

If the project should receive the $200 million that city officials have requested, the streetcar could be up and running by 2020, with a projected 6,000 riders daily. In case that doesn’t happen, though, the city is also pursuing federal grants and potential public-private partnerships that could help cover the cost of its construction.

Councilmember Jose Huizar, who has long championed the streetcar, said in a press release that it would be “a vital transportation project linking our regional transit system with destinations throughout downtown.”