A project which hopes to put streetcars back onto roads in downtown Los Angeles cleared a hurdle Tuesday with the Los Angeles City Council signing off on a preferred route for the line and the findings of an environmental impact study.
The council voted 13-0 to approve a 3.8-mile route that loops between the Civic Center, which includes Grand Park, and the Convention Center and the Fashion District in the South Park area.
"We've reached a very important milestone in what will be a transportation project that will link our regional transit system with destinations downtown," Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes downtown Los Angeles, said prior to the vote.
City officials say the project will restore a form of transportation that had been popular in downtown Los Angeles during the early half of the last century.
The streetcar was a staple in LA during the early and mid-1900s, and was at one point the largest electric railway system in the world. The streetcars were eventually pushed out by the construction of highways and bus systems throughout the city, said Shane Phillips, the project director of LA Streetcar Inc., a nonprofit working with the government on the project.
"People drive downtown and go, 'What do I do now?' Phillips said, "They have to drive all around to find parking. We want you to be able to get around downtown without that."
The proposed route is expected to have stops near downtown sites such as the theaters and shops along Broadway, Grand Central Market and several hotels.
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City officials will next finalize the cost estimate for the project based on new information about engineering and utility relocation costs, according to council aides and public works officials.
A estimate from last year indicated the streetcar could cost about $282 million to build.
City officials say they are hoping to raise funds through partnerships with private entities, and to line up federal grants and other sources of funding to pay for the streetcar's construction and operation.
The streetcar project is expected to receive about $200 million in sales tax revenue from Measure M, which was approved by voters earlier this month, as well as funds from a prior transportation sales tax increase approved under Measure R.
Construction on the streetcar is expected to begin in 2018 and be completed in 2020, council aides said.