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Orange County, California/Centerline Rail Corridor

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The Centerline Orange County Rail Corridor

Orange County, California

(November 2000)


The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is developing a 30.1-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.

In response to input from citizens and local elected officials, OCTA has revised the project since its FY 2001 New Starts review. The proposed project alignment has lengthened from 26.5 miles to 30 miles and will be an elevated LRT system, rather than a primarily surface system. This profile reflects an assumption of a 35-station 30.1-mile LRT system, which is 90 percent elevated and 10 percent at-grade. Project costs are estimated at $3.741 billion (escalated dollars) with ridership estimated at 82,500 average weekday boardings. OCTA forecasts that the corridor will carry 50,300 daily new riders.

Centerline Orange County Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Rail Fixed Guideway (LRT)
30.1 miles, 35 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $3.741 billion
Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE) $1.871 billion
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $55.4 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 82,500 average weekday boardings
50,300 daily new riders
FY 2002 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2002 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the project’s adequate project 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 2000. 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 percent 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 January 2001 with the selection of a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), at which point OCTA will focus its remaining PE effort on the LPA.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(59) authorizes the Fullerton-Irvine Corridor for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $10.43 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 82,500 average weekday boardings and 50,300 daily new riders by 2020. OCTA estimates the following travel time savings for the New Start compared with the No-Build/TSM alternative.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 9.3 million hours N/A

Based on the 1990 US Census, OCTA estimates that there are 17,506 low-income households within ½ mile of the 35 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 and for PM-10, and a nonattainment area for NOx.

OCTA estimates the following changes in annual regional emissions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 224 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 64 annual tons N/A
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 15 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) decrease of 20 annual tons N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 20,623 annual tons N/A

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

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 249,326 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

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

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020) $0.42 N/A $0.34

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

OCTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $14.30 N/A

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 30.1-mile project serves several single and multi-family residential neighborhoods, several office parks, regional malls, strip retail development, several industrial areas, and Disneyland, Anaheim Stadium, two large medical centers, and downtown Santa Ana/Orange County Civic Center. Additionally, the John Wayne Airport and the El Torro Base Redevelopment Site will also be served by the proposed investment. As of 1997, a total of 180,000 residents and 172,000 jobs were located within ½ mile of proposed stations. By 2020, station area employment is projected to grow by 69 percent and station area population by 13 percent, reflecting strong regional growth conditions. Average employment and population densities are 9.5 and 11.5 per acre, respectively. Population and employment densities are highest in the some of the central portions of the corridor (Santa Ana and Orange), moderate in the northern portion (Anaheim and Fullerton), and lowest in the southern portion (Costa Mesa and Irvine). The land use patterns in the corridor are largely auto-oriented, with a significant supply of parking in most employment centers, shopping areas, and attractions, and wide arterial streets, although a few older downtowns exist.

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. Most of the communities along the corridor have relatively dense residential zoning (15 to 30 units per acre and higher) in place in the corridor. There are a number of redevelopment and expansion 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 of Santa 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 $1,870.6 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds and an additional Federal contribution of $638.6 million (20 percent) in Federal flexible funds. The plan includes $932.8 million (21 percent) in State funding and $299.2 million (9 percent) in local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: High

The Centerline Rail Corridor has received a High capital plan rating because 100 percent of proposed local funding for the project is committed from existing sources, OCTA has demonstrated its ability to finance large projects, and cost contingencies are more than adequate.

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. OCTA carries a very high bond rating: A+ from Standard and Poor’s, A from Fitch, and Aa3 from Moody’s. Strengthening this is that the bonds have been insured, increasing their ratings to AAA/AAA/Aaa, the highest ratings that can be attained.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: OCTA has incorporated cost contingencies into its financial plan. The contingencies should be more than adequate to cover cost overruns for design and construction, rights-of-way, and vehicle cost. An additional project reserve of 10 percent exists and is applied to the total costs, including contingencies.

Existing and Committed Funding: The OCTA Board of Directors has committed $179 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 project 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 $55.4 million. These estimates appear reasonable given the proposed size of the system. OCTA uses conservative growth forecasts.

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 ($14.5 million) and CMAQ ($14.9 million) funds. These resources are expected to yield sufficient funds to operate the completed 30.1-mile system through 2011 when the current round of Measure M sales tax is scheduled to end. If the Measure M initiative is not renewed, the project would experience declining, but still positive, operating cash balance from 2012 through 2028, particularly after 2022.

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
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $1,870.6 $10.43 million appropriated through FY 2001.
STP/CMAQ $638.6


STIP $932.8


Proposition 116 (Bond) $120.0


Measure M $179.2


Total: $3,741.2

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Any errors are due to rounding.

Map of 30.1-mile rail corridor in central Orange County between Fullerton and Irvine connecting major activity centers within the corridor, including downtown Fullerton and the Fullerton Transportation Center, downtown Anaheim, the Anaheim Resort Area, downtown Santa Ana, John Wayne Airport, El Toro Marine Base, several hospitals and regional shopping, employment, cultural and entertainment centers.

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact