Orange County Transportation Authority board members recently awarded a $220.5-million contract to a construction firm to build the first modern streetcar in Orange County.
Corona-based Walsh Construction is expected to begin work later this year.
“This is an important milestone that puts us one step closer to breaking ground on the O.C. Streetcar,” said county Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who chairs the OCTA.
The streetcar will span a 4.1-mile route between the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, stopping at bus stops along the way. Cars will serve the busy downtown area of Santa Ana, which includes county and local government offices and courthouses.
The streetcar is expected to carry more than 7,300 passengers a day. About 40,000 people commute to downtown Santa Ana daily, according to census data.
The idea for the OC Streetcar has been around since 2006. The project arose in the wake of a scrapped proposal for a 9.3-mile, $1-billion light-rail system that would have run through Santa Ana and Costa Mesa to John Wayne Airport.
The county has sought funding from federal and state sources for the $407-million project.
The Federal Transit Administration is considering a grant agreement that, along with other federal funding, would provide half the needed funds. The county’s Measure M half-cent sales tax for transportation projects will also help fund the endeavor.
OCTA board members in March approved a $51.5-million contract with Siemens Industries to provide six vehicles and two spare cars for the OC Streetcar system.
Testing and operations are slated to begin in 2021.