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The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a letter signaling its support for the Orange County Streetcar project to move into the engineering phase, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) announced yesterday.The letter demonstrates that OCTA remains on track in meeting the "extensive requirements of the FTA's New Starts program," OCTA officials said in a press release.The FTA's review of the OC Streetcar project focused on ridership projections and benefits to the community, as well as OCTA's financial commitment to the project and its ability to build and operate it.The engineering phase marks the final stage before OCTA seeks a full funding grant agreement from the FTA. The grant agreement potentially would cover half of the $298 million project's costs. The state of California also is providing $25.5 million in cap-and-trade funds. Local funding sources include revenue generated by Measure M, Orange County's half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements.Construction is slated to begin in 2018, with the start of testing and operations planned for 2020.OCTA last month released a request for proposals for a firm to build eight streetcar vehicles for the system.The OC Streetcar will operate on a 4.1-mile route between Santa Ana and Garden Grove, Calif. The system is expected to carry 7,500 passengers a day during its first year of operations, according to the OCTA.Meanwhile, Michael Hennessey was named OCTA's chairman. He served as vice chairman last year.Hennessey replaces outgoing Chairwoman Lori Donchak, who will remain on the board. Lisa Bartlett, who serves as Orange County's fifth district supervisor, was tapped as vice chair.Hennessey, the principal of his own real estate and consulting firm, has been a public member on the OCTA's board since 2011.
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