Obama Includes Santa Ana Streetcar in Federal Budget

President Obama has allocated $125 million for the Santa Ana streetcar in next fiscal year’s federal budget, making the construction of the 4.1-mile light rail system all the more likely, local officials announced this week.

The project, dubbed the “OC Streetcar,” would run from a planned transit hub in Garden Grove down to the Santa Ana train station, connecting to the city’s downtown core and county civic center. County and city transit leaders say it will encourage people to get out of their cars and use public transit.

Local officials hope to fund up to half of the project’s estimated $289 million cost with federal funds, specifically a highly competitive grant program known as “New Starts.” The Federal Transit Administration will be considering a “full-funding grant agreement” within the next two years, according to a news release from the Orange County Transportation Authority.

“This is another major step forward toward the realization of our county’s first modern streetcar,” Transportation Authority Chairwoman Lori Donchak, also a San Clemente councilwoman, stated in the news release. “Ultimately, this is about providing better options for people to get out of their cars and using public transportation, whether it’s to get to work, to school or to an afternoon business meeting.”

Santa Ana’s proposed light rail system hasn’t faced the same level of opposition from some local government leaders as Anaheim’s more controversial streetcar project. But it also hasn’t been without its fair share of controversy.

Local civic and business leaders view the streetcar as vital to ongoing efforts at making downtown Santa Ana a trendy place for young professionals. The streetcar would run along Fourth Street, known to Latino residents as Calle Cuatro because of its reputation as a Latino shopping destination, and longtime residents and businesses say they fear being pushed out. 

According to the news release, construction of the streetcar line would begin in late 2017, and the system would be operational by 2020.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek