Orange County Streetcar Project to Receive $9.4 Million in Federal COVID Relief Aid

March 22, 2021 Updated: March 22, 2021

An Orange County streetcar project to connect Santa Ana and Garden Grove will receive $9.4 million in federal aid, authorities have confirmed.

The funds were allocated in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month.

“Our understanding is that the additional funding is intended to help offset costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Joel Zlotnik, a spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), which is overseeing the project, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Zlotnik said the OC Streetcar project “is one of several projects nationwide that is funded in part through the federal Capital Investment Grants program and has been identified to receive stimulus funding. We expect to receive approximately $9.4 million for the streetcar.”

The project will connect 4.15 miles of track between the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center (SARTC) and a new transit hub in Garden Grove on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Westminster Avenue.

In late 2018, OCTA received a $149 million Full-Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to help build the project.

“In the years leading up to that grant being approved and since then, OCTA has been working hand-in-hand with the FTA to get the OC Streetcar built,” Zlotnik said.

“OC Streetcar construction is moving forward, including the recent milestone of the first rail being set into the street near Santa Ana Boulevard and Bristol Street. Work to install the track continues westbound toward Raitt Street.”

Testing is scheduled to begin in late 2022. Cost estimates for the project fluctuated during the design phase, but since the project broke ground, the estimate has remained at approximately $408 million. More than half—nearly $217 million—comes from federal funds, with local funding contributing about $166 million and state funds adding another $25.5 million.

The OC Streetcar project is part of the voter-approved Measure M local sales tax for transportation improvements, Zlotnik said.

“This type of project will better connect the community to the busiest bus routes and Metrolink, offering high-frequency transit service for residents, employees, and visitors. This is one part of OCTA’s effort to work with cities and the county to provide a balanced, sustainable transportation network,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the FTA, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove to make this project a reality for Orange County.”

Zlotnik noted that some unexpected discoveries made last year during construction had altered the timeline.

“The project has run into some additional costs and schedule delays related to removing contaminated soil and unexpected finds of old rail ties, as well as an archaeologically significant find of Native American heritage,” he said.

Human skeletal remains were found at a construction site for the OC Streetcar project in late October. The century-old bones, believed to be those of a Native American, were turned over to the Native American Heritage Commission for burial.

Zlotnik didn’t say how much federal money OCTA will receive in addition to the streetcar project for other transit-related projects in the county.

“As far as OCTA, we aren’t certain about the total amount we will be receiving out of the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package,” he said.

The OC Streetcar route will have 10 stops in each direction, with six streetcars operating daily. Wait times are expected to be 10 to 15 minutes, and the cost to ride the streetcar will be $2.