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Downtown LA streetcar opening may be pushed to 2021

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The project was once expected to be complete in 2016

Plans for a Downtown Los Angeles streetcar are still chugging along, but perhaps not as quickly as prospective riders might have hoped.

The City Council’s Transportation Committee will review a report on Wednesday from city staff indicating that the project’s realistic opening date will have to be pushed back to July of 2021—seven months later than the previous estimate.

Delays should be familiar to longtime Downtown residents. The streetcar was once projected to open as early as 2016, but a lack of funding and other issues have so far kept the project in the planning stages.

The report also contains a new cost estimate for the project: $274.2 million (or $290.7 million including finance charges). That’s a little higher than previous estimates, due to the later opening date. The cost also rises to $306.3 million if an extension of the line to Grand Avenue is constructed, though last year the City Council decided not to pursue that option unless additional funding becomes available.

As it stands now, the project is expected to make a loop from the Historic Core down to South Park and up through the Financial District. It would arrive every seven minutes during peak hours and every 10 to 15 minutes during off-peak hours.

According to the funding plan for Measure M, Metro’s sales tax hike passed in November, the project is due to receive $200 million. Unfortunately, the funding schedule as it exists today doesn’t make that money available until 2053. Not surprisingly, the report notes the importance of convincing Metro to make those funds available sooner in order to complete the project on time.

The rest of the money for the project will come largely from a property tax approved by Downtown voters in 2012. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is also applying for a $100 million grant that would also provide additional funding.

The city has also been looking into the idea of a public-private partnership to get the project going if funding comes up short. The report notes, though, that that option would push back the project’s opening date even further, to mid-2022.