OC Streetcar rendering via OCTA.

OC Streetcar rendering via OCTA.

Plans for Orange County, Calif.’s first modern streetcar rolled forward when the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) board of directors approved the purchase of the streetcars that will carry passengers on the route through Santa Ana and Garden Grove.

The contract with Siemens Industries, in the amount of up to $51.5 million, will provide eight streetcar vehicles and spare parts and tools. The OC Streetcar route will have six vehicles in operation and two spare cars that can be rotated into the system as needed.

The contract for the streetcars comes with the option to purchase up to 10 additional streetcars at a later date, if necessary. As part of the deal, Siemens will provide systems support and training to operators and maintenance technicians once the vehicles are delivered.

The OC Streetcar project is estimated to cost $299 million, with funding coming from Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, and a mix of state and federal funding.

OCTA has been working closely throughout planning and design with the Federal Transit Administration, which is considering a full funding grant agreement to pay for about half of the project’s cost. Of that, $50 million was included in the President’s 2017 budget.

Because OCTA met all federal guidelines during the development of the project, FTA officials gave OCTA written pre-award authority to move forward with the purchase of vehicles. On March 23, Congress funded about $2.6 billion toward Capital Improvement Grants funding, which is a promising signal for the OC Streetcar project to receive the full funding grant agreement.

The model of streetcar that Siemens will provide, called the S70 model, has proven successful in other cities nationwide. At least 342 streetcars of that model are in operation in eight U.S. cities.

The vehicles are 88 feet long and have 70 seats, carrying up to 180 passengers at a time. The streetcars will have doors on each side, operator cabs in the front and back, and level boarding — meaning no steps are required to enter or exit the streetcar.

This summer, the OCTA board will review branding of the OC Streetcar, which is expected to be similar to the blue, orange, and white branding of the OC Bus system.

Construction on the OC Streetcar is set to begin later this year with testing and operations beginning in late 2020.

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