Orange County, California/Centerline Rail Corridor

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The Centerline Orange County Rail Corridor

Orange County, CA

(November 1999)

(click here for map)


The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is developing a 26.6-mile rail corridor in central Orange County between Fullerton and Irvine. The proposed project will connect major activity centers within the corridor, including downtown Fullerton and the Fullerton Transportation Center, downtown Anaheim, the Anaheim Resort Area (including Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center, Edison Stadium and the Arrowhead Pond) downtown Santa Ana (and the county government center), John Wayne Airport, El Toro Marine Base (which is being converted to civilian use), and several hospitals and regional shopping, employment, cultural, and entertainment centers.

OCTA is currently studying several alignment alternatives for a light rail transit system in the corridor, including minimum operable segment (MOS) options. This profile reflects an assumption of a 31-station 26.6 mile LRT system which is 97 percent at-grade and 3 percent elevated. Project costs are estimated at $2.015 billion (escalated dollars) with ridership estimated at 71,800 average weekday boardings.

Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Rail Fixed Guideway (LRT)

26.6 miles, 31 stations

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

Section 5309 Share ($YOE):

$2.015 billion

$1.009 billion

Annual Operating Cost ($YOE):

$46.5 million

Ridership Forecast (2020):

71,800 avg. weekday boardings

35,800 daily new riders

FY 2001 Finance Rating:


FY 2001 Project Justification Rating:


FY 2001 Overall Project Rating:


The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the project’s adequate justification criteria and committed capital and operating funding. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


OCTA completed a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the corridor in June 1997. The MIS led to the selection of a rail/bus project consisting of a 28-mile rail corridor and a 49% increase in bus service. The project is included in the financially constrained and conforming regional transportation plan and transportation improvement program. In February 1998, FTA approved

entry into the Preliminary Engineering (PE)/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) phase of project development. The DEIS effort is expected to conclude in the Summer of 2000 with the selection of a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), at which point OCTA will focus its remaining PE effort on the LPA.

The Centerline rail corridor project is included in the metropolitan planning organization's financially constrained and conforming Regional Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program. TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(59) authorizes the Fullerton-Irvine Corridor for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $8.44 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the Medium or higher ratings assigned to each of the justification criteria.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

The 26.6 mile system is expected to serve 71,800 average weekday boardings and 35,800 daily new riders by 2020. OCTA estimates the following travel time savings for the New Start compared with the No-Build and TSM alternatives.


Mobility Improvements

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours)

13.3 million

6.3 million

Based on the 1990 US Census, OCTA estimates that there are 17,506 low-income households within ½ mile of the 31 proposed stations (approximately 40 percent of all households located within ½ mile of stations).

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Orange County lies within the South Coast Air Basin and is currently classified as an "extreme" nonattainment area for ozone, a "serious" nonattainment area for carbon monoxide, a "serious"

nonattainment area for PM-10, and a nonattainment area for NOx.

OCTA estimates the following changes in annual regional emissions.


Criteria Pollutant

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

Carbon Monoxide (CO)



Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)



Hydrocarbons (HC)



Particulate Matter (PM10)



Carbon Dioxide (CO2)



Values reflect annual tons of emissions reductions. Values in [ ] indicate increases in emissions

OCTA estimates the following changes in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).


Annual Energy Savings

New Start vs.


New Start vs. TSM

BTU (million)



Values reflect annual BTU reductions. Values in [ ] indicate increases in emissions

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

OCTA estimates a decrease in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile compared to the No-Build and TSM.




New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020)




Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

OCTA estimates the following cost effectiveness indices:


New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the varied densities and transit-supportive conditions found along the corridor, but acknowledges the proactive role of OCTA and several local jurisdictions in encouraging transit-oriented development around proposed station areas.

Existing Conditions: The proposed 26.6-mile corridor serves several single and multi-family residential neighborhoods, several office parks, regional malls, strip retail development, several industrial areas, and Disneyland, Anaheim Stadium, and other entertainment attractions. Additionally, the John Wayne Airport and the El Torro Base Redevelopment Site will also be served by the proposed investment. Land use densities are generally moderate in the north of the corridor but are generally lower in the southern portion of the corridor. The population of the corridor is expected to grow by 13%, from 715,900 to 808,500 between 1997 and 2020 and employment in the corridor is expected to grow from 581,270 to 936,300 --- a 61 percent increase. The corridor contains 25 percent of the population and 45 percent of employment within Orange County. The land use patterns in the corridor are auto-oriented, with a significant supply of parking in most employment centers, shopping areas, and attractions. In general, the corridor is not pedestrian-friendly; however, most of the seven communities traversed by the corridor have adopted policies and plans which support redevelopment and pedestrian access around station areas.

Future Plans and Policies: OCTA has been working with corridor communities to develop station area planning and design guidelines and has executed cooperative agreements with all jurisdictions in the corridor to conduct station area planning. OCTA has also developed tools to assist in station area planning efforts including transit supportive development guidelines, a joint development strategy, station area land use profiles, station area parking guidelines, and an implementation plan. In addition, OCTA has conducted public education and outreach on transit-oriented land use planning, and is investigating joint development opportunities. The communities along the corridor have enacted relatively dense residential zoning (15 to 30 units per acre and higher), and there are a number of redevelopment projects that include proposed light rail station areas as part of their plans.

Other Factors

Santa Ana Enterprise Zone: The city of Santa Ana has three sites designated by the State of California as Enterprise Zones, and within the boundaries of these zones are three Centerline stations. A portion ofSanta Ana is also designated as a Federal Empowerment Zone. OCTA has been involved with the city in development activities and is committed to supporting Enterprise/Empowerment Zone initiatives.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

The OCTA financial plan proposes $1,009.1 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds and an additional Federal contribution of $405.4 million (20 percent) in Federal flexible funds. The plan includes $421.9 million (21 percent) in State funding and $179.4 million (9 percent) in local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Centerline Rail Corridor has received a Medium-High capital plan rating because 100 percent of proposed local funding for the project is committed from existing sources.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: OCTA is in sound financial condition. The agency has sufficient capital resources from a ½ percent sales tax (Measure M) to finance a wide range of capital improvements.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: OCTA is in the process of selecting the locally preferred alternative and is considering a minimum operating segment (MOS). Capital cost estimates and contingencies will likely be refined after selection of the preferred alternative.

Existing and Committed Funding: The OCTA Board of Directors has committed $180 million in Measure M funds and sufficient CMAQ and State Transit Improvement Program (STIP) funding to finance the non-Section 5309 New Starts share of capital costs.

New and Proposed: All of the proposed Non-Section 5309 share of projects costs are from existing funding sources.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating plan rating reflects the existing dedicated revenue stream for operating the Centerline Rail Corridor.

Agency Operating Condition: OCTA is in sound operating financial condition. Measure M and other existing revenues provide the agency with sufficient resources to operate its existing bus system.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual O&M costs are estimated at $46.5 million. These estimates appear reasonable given the proposed size of the system. These costs will be refined after the locally preferred alternative is selected.

Existing and Committed Funding: OCTA proposes that operation of the completed Rail Corridor would be funded with an interest-bearing operating fund comprised of Measure M ($250 million) and CMAQ ($49 million) funds. This resource is estimated to yield sufficient funds to operate the completed 26.6-mile system through FY 2030. OCTA has similar funding in place for both its bus and commuter rail operations

New and Proposed Funding Sources: All of the funding proposed for operations and maintenance is from existing funding sources.


Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date

  §5309 New Starts


($8.44 million appropriated through FY 2000)




  Measure M





NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Centerline Rail Corridor (map)