Information on Cost of Los Angeles Streetcar Kept From Voters

When Los Angeles residents were preparing to vote last year on a measure to bring back the Los Angeles streetcar, they were told that the project would cost $125 million, with funding split between federal grants and revenue from a new assessment on property owners.

With just 20 percent of the voters participating in a December 2012 special election, the measure passed with 72.9 percent of the vote, and a benefit assessment district was created.

Now, the Los Angeles Times has uncovered records showing that before the election, city officials were aware that the $125 million price quote was far too low.

The newspaper reported: “Inside City Hall … staff members had been quietly warning that the project’s price tag was not a detailed estimate and could rise, a Times review of city memos, emails and meeting notes has found. … The red flags proved accurate. Officials recently announced that cost estimates have more than doubled, to as much as $327.8 million. Earlier budgets had not accurately accounted for inflation or the potentially high cost of relocating utilities. The route probably will be shortened, no longer passing by two high-profile venues, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”

Additionally, some city officials now believe the project may not receive a federal grant.

The estimate provided to voters was based on the cost-per-mile of a streetcar in Portland, Oregon, with no adjustment for inflation or other factors. “It’s really that simple,” the project director explained to city staff in an email. “We didn’t hire an engineer or anything that fancy.” (Source: Los Angeles Times, October 21.)

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