Orange County has had a love-hate relationship with rail-based forms of public transportation. About 10 years ago a 9.3-mile light rail system that would have connected Santa Ana and Costa Mesa to John Wayne Airport was axed when it lost political support. Since then few proposals for rail transit have matched that billion-dollar project in ambition or reception until now.
Recently, the Orange County Transportation Authority and the cities of Santa Ana and Garden Grove have been working on finalizing plans for a streetcar that would span the two cities. The line would run from the heart of Santa Ana, past a number of important government buildings, circuit courts and near Santa Ana College and the Orange County School of the Arts, to a new regional transit hub to be constructed in Garden Grove.
“This will be a paradigm shift that will change Orange County and allow the county’s central core to function differently,” said Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, an OCTA board member and leading proponent of the project, to Los Angeles Times.
The line will have about 12 stops and will make use of an old right-of-way that was once used by Pacific Electric trolleys. The route has since been bought and preserved by the OCTA. Fare for a one-way trip will run $2 while riders can purchase a $5 pass for 24 hours of rides. The line will also make for greater connectivity within the region by connecting up with 18 bus routes and helping to feed commuters to Amtrak and Metrolink trains.
New Train Line Helps to Revitalize Santa Ana
In addition to making the commute easier for employees who travel throughout Orange County for work, the new transit option is also serving as the backbone of a revitalized downtown area in Santa Ana. The city’s historic 4th Street has already seen an influx of new visitors thanks to its thriving restaurant scene, shopping and artist village, but with a stop located within a short distance, even more Orange County home owners might find themselves venturing to this vibrant city center.
“The line will connect a whole lot of people to a whole lot of cool stuff,” said Garden Grove City Councilman and OCTA board member Steve Jones to Los Angeles Times.
In addition to development downtown, the line could also inspire development along the land surrounding the Pacific Electric right-of-way route. Officials have posed the possibility of constructing new homes, recreation areas and commercial projects.
With so many possibilities on the horizon, many local merchants and home owners are looking to this project with optimism, quite the opposite of what the more ambitious, ill-fated CenterLine project encountered.
“There are no signs of what we went through with CenterLine. We have good cooperation with OCTA and the city of Santa Ana,” said Allan Roeder, Garden Grove’s interim city manager.
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