Fort Lauderdale is on track to become one of the next cities to have a streetcar running through its downtown.
The East Coast city of 165,000 residents has secured funding — including $30 million in federal funding, $18 million in a Department of Transportation grant and $35 million in state funding — to construct the $125 million streetcar network.
The 2.7-mile streetcar is being called “The Wave.” Construction is scheduled to start in 2014, with the streetcar opening in December 2015.
At a public meeting Thursday, Nov. 15, at City Hall, Michael Chen, a planner with Tindale-Oliver & Associates Inc., described Fort Lauderdale’s planned streetcar to show that funding, from state funding to federal grants, is available for streetcars.
The city of Sarasota has been flirting with the concept of bringing a shorter streetcar route to downtown.
A fixed-rail streetcar project would have much more of an economic-development impact than a bus-type trolley system, planning consultants said at the meeting.
“It is a reliable magnet to attract growth and development,” Chen said of streetcar networks.
One of three possible streetcar routes through downtown Sarasota has the potential to spur $8.9 million in additional ad valorem tax over a 10-year period, according to estimates from Tindale-Oliver. That route loops through the Rosemary District.
Chen was one of three consultants to present at last week’s meeting, held to discuss the possibility of a downtown circulator with the public. Much of the discussion at the meeting, attended by about 50 residents, centered on the possibility of a streetcar through downtown Sarasota.
Two recent events might impact the availability of such funding, though — including President Barack Obama’s re-election.
“I believe this administration and Congress will continue to fund transit,” Chen said.
Hurricane Sandy, meanwhile, has damaged a good portion of the public transportation system throughout the Northeast, which comprises about 30% of public transit nationwide, and necessary repairs could possibly lessen the pot of money available for new projects, Chen said.
The next step in Tindale-Oliver’s preliminary study is to schedule several more public workshops.
“There will be a couple more presentations and more interaction with the public,” said Michael English, urban planner with Tindale-Oliver.
After the public process, the planning firm will make a recommendation to the City Commission about whether the city should further study and pursue a streetcar project downtown.