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Downtown LA streetcars could boost economy

February 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
An independent study is reporting that a streetcar system in downtown Los Angeles would give the city an economic boost.

An ambitious vision to bring streetcars back to downtown Los Angeles has project supporters hailing the proposed system as the connector in a somewhat disconnected city.

"I think it would be a great idea to stop so much traffic and all these one-way streets and it all gets confusing, and it would be great," said Alhambra resident Cassandra Scardino.

At any given time, downtown Los Angeles is packed with cars and the only railway to be seen is the historic Angels Flight.

The proposed streetcars would serve a four-mile area including Bunker Hill, the Music Center, historic Broadway, L.A. Live and the L.A. Convention Center.

The study backs the benefits of the project, finding that an initial public and private investment of $125 million would create 9,300 jobs, $1.1 billion in new development and $24.5 million in new annual tourism and consumer spending.

The project is backed by AEG, a leading sports and entertainment company that has a huge stake in Los Angeles. AEG is responsible for L.A. Live, Staples Center and is also behind the proposed NFL stadium in downtown.

"Most of this is going to be funded by an assessment on the property owners in downtown Los Angeles, and we're one of the largest, if not the largest property owners, so this is going to hit our pocket book. We get that," said AEG CEO Tim Leiweke.

However, only a fraction of the total amount needed for the project has been allocated.

"We have $10 million committed from our local community redevelopment agency which is already committed, and we can get the rest of the money we think from the federal government," said Dennis Allan with the Los Angeles Streetcar Inc.

Not everyone is happy about more projects coming to downtown L.A.

"I think it would probably be a mess and for the next couple of years, the construction would really be a big deal," said Hermosa Beach resident Daniel Ceriano.

Fifty percent of the funding will come from area business and property owners. If the funding comes through, construction on the project could start as early as 2013 and the streetcars would run seven days a week for about 18 hours a day.