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The City of Santa Ana wants the Orange County Transportation Agency to expand a four-mile, $408 million streetcar project that’s currently under construction in the city’s downtown.

The project in its current form runs from Santa Ana’s train station to the city’s border with Garden Grove along Harbor Blvd. A resolution approved by the city council at their Tuesday meeting advocates expansions to the route north up Harbor Blvd to Anaheim’s tourist-heavy resort district, and down Bristol St. toward John Wayne Airport.

Santa Ana voted unanimously to adopt the resolution supporting extensions to the route, which is scheduled to open in early 2022.

Council members offered little discussion on the subject, with a hefty agenda ahead of them Tuesday night, which included a second reading of the controversial 2525 N. Main St. project in the city’s Park Santiago neighborhood.

But the project has been criticized for questions over its necessity as a mode of transportation, and construction disruptions to downtown storefronts who previously told Voice of OC that they’d seen business plummet, and would either have to cut costs, reduce hours or close down entirely.

OC Streetcar Construction closed down a section of 4th Street and Bush Street during the week of Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. Credit: BRANDON PHO, Voice of OC

“Our downtown businesses are definitely impacted by the construction but at the same time I hope they are able to sustain because I think that the benefits of the streetcar are going to be enormous for the city and for the region,” said Councilman Phil Bacerra at Tuesday’s meeting.

Supporters in charge of the agency building the project, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), claim the streetcar will mitigate traffic congestion, reduce parking demand, and help bring in foot traffic to local business in downtown.

But, critics of the Streetcar say the project is too expensive for its relatively short, four-mile route, when cheaper modes of transportation like bus systems can be used.

Two years ago, the OCTA Board of Directors decided not to move forward with a separate streetcar project along Harbor Blvd that would connect Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove and Santa Ana. OCTA decided to drop the project because Anaheim and Fullerton officials opposed that Harbor Blvd streetcar.

OC Streetcar groundbreaking at the Santa Ana train station in 2018. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Supporters of the OC streetcar, like Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido — who sits on OCTA Board of Directors — claim the project will prove an agent for economic growth in the city, transporting government workers living across the county to their offices in Santa Ana. Pulido said he is “still wrestling” to keep this project going.

Pulido turned down a request for comment by a reporter after the meeting.

Bacerra maintained that despite the current disruptions of the project, “I am proud of the fact that Santa Ana is putting down first tracks. We have a proud history of having rail transit in the city.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporting intern. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @elattarhosam.

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