Specious Cost Estimates Could Scuttle L.A. Streetcar

Questions about specious cost estimates that were the basis of a ballot initiative to fund a new L.A. streetcar line were kept from voters, a Los Angeles Times investigation has revealed. The project may have to be delayed, shortened, or cancelled.
October 22, 2013, 2pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"When downtown voters agreed last winter to bring back the Los Angeles streetcar, the campaign pitch sounded simple: a $125-million trolley through the heart of the central city, with funding split between federal grants and a new property tax," writes Laura J. Nelson. "Inside City Hall, however, 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."

A "back-of-the-envelope" estimate based on the cost-per-mile construction of Portland's streetcar and a utility relocation estimate that was off of the worst case scenario by $190 million helped contribute to the erroneous estimates. But concerns raised by city staff over potential additional costs before detailed estimates were produced were kept under wraps.   

"With no clear way to close what could be a $200-million funding gap, the fear now at City Hall is that the streetcar's shot at a crucial federal grant is in jeopardy, potentially delaying construction by several years."

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Published on Monday, October 21, 2013 in Los Angeles Times
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