The Orange County Transportation Authority has effectively ended its planning of a streetcar system due to unforeseen costs and lack of support.
(TNS) -- County transportation officials voted Monday to take the lead on the Anaheim Rapid Connection streetcar project – potentially derailing Anaheim’s proposal, which has already cost millions.
The Orange County Transportation Authority’s unanimous vote concludes planning efforts by Anaheim initiated years ago for a streetcar connecting ARTIC, a massive transportation hub near Angel Stadium, to the Harbor Boulevard area and calls for the city to forward its project work to the OCTA.
That work would be folded into the transportation agency’s Central Harbor Boulevard Transit Corridor Study, analyzing and developing transportation options to move people along the Harbor Boulevard area in northern and central Orange County.
For some board members, this action puts the brakes on the streetcar project. Over the past decade, Anaheim has spent $9 million – much of it from the OCTA – to figure out how best to transport people around the bustling resort swath that includes Disneyland, and in 2012 settled on the streetcar.
“I’m very happy that we’re finally able to end this project in its current form because it’s an unwise expenditure of taxpayer funds,” said OCTA board member Jeff Lalloway, an Irvine councilman.
The OCTA board, in July 2013, approved an Anaheim analysis, allowing the streetcar proposal to move into the environmental phase. But some transportation board members have expressed concerns about the cost, the right-of-way needs and a lack of local support.
Considering progress on the Harbor corridor study and the OC Streetcar between Santa Ana and Garden Grove, OCTA officials determined that the Anaheim streetcar’s proposed 3.2-mile route and $299 million tab should be explored in the Harbor study that takes a more regional focus.
Potential capital funding for the Anaheim streetcar had included possible revenue from the Measure M local sales tax, Federal Transit Administration New Starts project funds, the State Transportation Improvement Program, California Prop 1A and Prop 1B, and the Anaheim Tourism Improvement District.
“I hope that (the OCTA) staff does not recommend the streetcar as an option, but if they do, I trust the board will make the right decision,” said Lalloway, who formed an ad-hoc committee that last November critiqued the project.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, who sits on the OCTA board as well, was on that ad-hoc committee. He agreed that Monday’s action “finally kills the project,” which the city started before his mayoral tenure.
“Why would we want to look back and use 100-year-old technology?” Tait said of the streetcar. “We should be looking forward, not backwards, to solve the congestion problems.”
County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, another member of the ad-hoc committee, offered a more moderate view.
“It’s certainly an end to the way Anaheim was doing it, because that only allowed one alternative,” Nelson said. “Our (OCTA) study is being done for the purpose of answering the question, ‘What is the way to get people to and from this corridor?’”
But Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, a longtime proponent of the streetcar, does not consider the project dead.
“The city continues a longstanding partnership with OCTA to deliver not only the Anaheim streetcar, but planning a streetcar system for the county long-term,” she said. “It’s an important step to ensure that this project is part of OCTA’s larger transportation planning.”
Darrell Johnson, the OCTA’s CEO, said it is the agency’s goal in conducting the Harbor study “to have no bias to any mode.”
Disneyland Resort officials in the past took part in the streetcar planning. On Monday, resort spokeswoman Suzi Brown said Disney is committed to working with Anaheim and the OCTA on whichever mode of transit is determined to be the best for the region, and that the company’s future development is not connected to the fate of the streetcar.
Anaheim resident Cynthia Ward, the only public speaker, was pleased with Monday’s vote.
“This is a boondoggle,” she said of the streetcar, “And to take this back to OCTA oversight and give it some adult supervision, is really what we needed.”
Monday’s action has yet to go to the Anaheim City Council, which will need to amend the agreement with the county transportation agency, said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.
©2016 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.