"The idea when we set out on this was to connect every major destination point in downtown," Huizar said.
Despite covering a very short distance, the loop functions like a tour of every economic level of LA, from the Ritz-Carlton to Skid Row.
"Some of that line is highly dense, highly trafficked, and some of the route needs a good incentive for investors to come in," said Paul Habibi, a professor of business at UCLA, who is acting as the project's director.
The current environmental review is expected to take about a year, with groundbreaking projected for 2014 and completion for 2016.
The money, at a time when cities are fighting over every scrap, is the biggest potential stumbling block. Cost estimates have ranged from $110 million to $125 million.
Ten million dollars has already been raised through city sources. Of the remaining cost, supporters expect to get federal grants for half, but they must first pass a local tax on property owners near the route. It would require approval from two-thirds of some 7,000 registered voters.
Streetcar organizers know they'll need to work to prove to merchants and landlords that they'll get a decent return on the investment, and they hope they'll have a stronger economy when the issue comes up for a vote in 2013.