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Anaheim City Council Won’t Bury Streetcar Plan

Plus, Helsinki will get an ambitious island-hopping pedestrian/bike/train link, and more in our weekly New Starts

Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (Photo by Samuel Bernstein)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Anaheim City Council Refuses to Bury Streetcar Plan
Ignoring the wishes of Mayor Tom Tait, the Anaheim City Council voted last week to pursue its study of a streetcar line connecting the California city’s transit center with the resort area around Disneyland to its conclusion.

The Orange County Register reports that the vote mirrors one taken by the Orange County Transportation Authority in June to have the city conclude the study of the Anaheim Rapid Connection and fold it into the OCTA’s Central Harbor Boulevard Transit Corridor Study.

Tait argued that continuing the study made no sense because the line’s ridership wouldn’t justify its cost, it wouldn’t receive federal funding and it would worsen traffic congestion on the streets down which it ran.

But two of the five members of City Council agreed with fellow member Kris Murray that pulling the plug on the study now would waste the $11.3 million that had already been spent studying the option. Council Member Lucille Kring also noted that since the resort hotels were funding the environmental impact report for the proposed line, concluding the study and handing it over to the OCTA would not be a total waste of money.

The study and the environmental impact report should be finished by the end of this year or early in 2017.

Track Work Complete on Second Tram Line Through Central Manchester
The millions of visitors who pour into Manchester for the British city’s annual Christmas market will get a present from Transport for Greater Manchester this year: streets restored to usable condition now that track laying is complete for the Manchester Metrolink Second City Crossing.

Manchester Metrolink (Photo by David Dixon)

According to an article in the International Railway Journal, the last rails for the second route through Manchester’s city center were laid Sept. 13, and the remaining engineering work on the £165 million ($215.2 million U.S.) line should be finished by the end of the year.

The Second City Crossing will improve the frequency and reliability of service on the Metrolink tram system, which carries some 35 million passengers annually.

The first phase of the route, from Victoria station to Exchange Square, opened in the summer of 2015 thanks to a grant from the European Regional Development Fund that sped up construction. This second phase is expected to open early in 2017.

Helsinki City Council Greenlights Bridge-LRT Project
The Helsinki City Council has approved a project that would build a series of bridges, including the longest span in Finland, to connect the city center with Laajasalo Island, where new developments that will house a total of 15,000 new residents are planned.

The International Railway Journal’s report on the vote notes that the Crown Bridges project will consist of three separate spans totaling 2 km (1.24 miles) along with a 10-km (6.21-mile) light-rail line. The longest of the three bridges, the 1.2-km (.75-mile) Kruunuvuorensilta span, will be Finland’s longest bridge when it opens.

The light-rail line will run from the city center to Yliskylä, serving the Helsinki Zoo along the way. The bridges will also have bicycle and pedestrian paths.

According to the article, the existing road bridges between Laajasalo and the mainland could not handle a huge increase in the island’s population.

Work on the €260 million ($290.4 million U.S.) project could begin as soon as 2018. The light-rail line, which would go into service in 2026, is projected to carry 37,000 riders daily on cars that run at 5- to 10-minute intervals. An additional 3,000 people would use the bike and pedestrian paths on the bridges.

Before work can begin on the Kruunuvuorensilta bridge, an oil-fired power plant on Laajasalo must close to eliminate shipping movements around the island. That should happen in 2024.

FTA Pledges $1.04 Billion Toward San Diego Trolley Extension
Railway Track and Structures reports that the Federal Transit Administration has entered into a $1.04 billion grant agreement with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which will pick up almost half the cost of the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project, a 10.92-mile extension of the San Diego Trolley’s Blue Line.

San Diego Trolley Blue Line (Photo by Vmzp85)

The nine-station extension will connect Old Town, Mission Bay Park, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the UC San Diego campus and the Westfield UTC shopping center. Known around town as the Mid-Coast Trolley, the $2.17 billion project is the largest public transit project in San Diego history.

When service begins in 2021, the line is projected to carry 24,600 riders every weekday in a corridor whose population is projected to rise by 20 percent in the coming decades.

Funding for the local match for the line comes from a countywide half-cent sales tax for transportation.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendingstreetcarsbridges

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