Thursday, July 05, 2012

Santa Ana streetcar funding options weighed

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Orange County, Calif., transportation officials are weighing the practicality of expanding Interstate 405 capacity, while also considering a proposed streetcar system for  Santa Ana, the county seat.

The Orange County Register reports county officials believe only $600 million is available through the n Measure M funding mechanism to widen the Interstate. But Measure M funds could be used to expedite streetcar development more quickly than relying on federal funding options, according to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido.

Orange County rail development has lagged behind its neighbors to the north and south (Los Angeles County and San Diego County), even as its population has increased and traffic congestion has become systemic.

In 2010, an Orange County "Grand Jury" (not part of the state' judicial process) advised that the OCTA improve bus service by re-examining the $143 million of Measure M funds slated to build an Anaheim transportation center. But the allocation formula for Measure M funds is written into the sales-tax measure that was approved by voters, OCTA Chief Executive Officer Will Kempton said. Measure M requires 43% go toward freeways, 32% toward streets and roads, and 25% to rail or bus transit.

Santa Ana and Garden Grove, in cooperation with the OCTA, are proposing to build a streetcar system covering the four miles between the Santa Ana Transportation Center and a proposed transportation center in Garden Grove. Initial cost estimates range between $180 million and $250 million, with one terminus being the Santa Ana Transportation Center, served by Amtrak and regional passenger rail service.

Mayor Pulido believes use of Measure M funds, rather than federal funds, would result in the project moving along more quickly, with construction beginning as early as 2015 instead of 2017, and operations beginning in 2017, about 2 1/2 years ahead of a federally funded project.