Metro to publicly finance HOV toll lane project for Santa Clarita Valley

i5_project_map

We posted last year about a Measure R project to add tolled HOV lanes to 13.5 miles of the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley between the 14 freeway and Parker Road. Vehicles with one or two occupants would pay a toll while vehicles with three or more occupants could use the lanes for free; tolling the lanes allows the project to be built well before the original Measure R completion date of 2040.

Today we have this update: Metro and Caltrans have decided to publicly finance the project instead of seeking a public-private partnership (known as a PPP). Why? It’s less expensive to publicly finance the project by using $352 million in now-available Measure R and other funds and a federal low-interest loan for $175 million.

Under a PPP, a private firm or firms would have paid for the construction of the project and then been repaid, in part, by collecting and managing tolls from the lanes for 35 years. In this case, public financing will allow Metro to borrow less money and secure a lower interest rate on the needed loan.

This project as originally proposed was also unusual because it included new sound walls for the 210 freeway in Pasadena and Arcadia and the 170 and 405 freeways in Los Angeles, and adding extra lanes for a short stretch of the 71 freeway in Pomona. Under the public financing deal, those projects will be built separately. The toll revenues would be reinvested and used for transit services and traffic operations in the 5 freeway corridor in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The current forecast calls for the HOV lanes on the 5 to open in 2021, the soundwalls to be completed in 2019 and for the additional lane on the southbound side of the SR-71 to be done in 2021 and the lane on the northbound 71 to be finished in 2028.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 16

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

ART OF TRANSIT: That's Lake Powell in southern Utah as seen by yours truly yesterday afternoon. I'm in Ohio this week attending to family business that arose suddenly. I will be posting occasionally this week -- and if it seems like I'm 2,100 miles away, I am. Lake Powell, btw, is about 39 percent full -- but still is holding more than a trillion gallons of water, some of which will end up in So Cal via the Colorado Aqueduct. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: That’s Lake Powell in southern Utah as seen by yours truly Monday afternoon. I’m in Ohio this week attending to family business but I will be posting occasionally as there’s lots happening — thanks in advance for your patience. Lake Powell, btw, is about 39 percent full — but 39 percent still equals more than a trillion gallons of water, some of which will end up in So Cal via the Colorado Aqueduct. No sign of the Icarus. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro recommends $927-million contract for downtown rail project (L.A. Times) 

A good look at the staff recommendation for a design-build contractor — Skanska USA and Traylor Bros. — for the Regional Connector project. As the article notes, Metro will need to shift some funds around to meet the project’s budget and the current cost hinges on Metro getting the construction permits it needs from the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Five years since its opening, still much work ahead for the Eastside Gold Line (Boyle Heights Beat) 

Good article. The Eastside leg of the Gold Line will celebrate its five-year anniversary in November and Boyle Heights residents have mixed views on the line — some find it convenient, some think earlier bus lines were a better option. Metro officials point to community amenities that were part of the project (improved sidewalks, lighting and new trees, for example). My own three cents: the Regional Connector will especially benefit the communities along the Eastside line, allowing trains to travel directly into downtown L.A. instead of routing passengers to Union Station and a transfer to the subway.

SEPTA to restore all-night subway service (Mass Transit) 

The agency that serves the Philadelphia metro area will run all night service on two subway lines this summer for the first time since the early 1990s. Increasing night life and new residences in downtown Philly prompted officials to launch the experiment.

How did the bicycle cross the highway? (Medium) 

Here’s how the Dutch did it:

These Detroit bus benches are made from demolished homes (The Atlantic Cities) 

Specifically, doors from properties torn down — Detroit has thousands of abandoned properties — are being smartly repurposed. Very cool.

Update on release of SR-710 North study environmental documents announced

Here is the statement from Metro:

Metro today announced that release of the draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the State Route 710 North Study will be delayed. Metro is working with Caltrans on a revised schedule and will make an announcement as soon as it is confirmed.

Metro had hoped to release the draft environmental documents this spring but the work was delayed while the latest Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) regional travel demand computer model for analyzing the alternatives was calibrated and applied.

Metro was one of the first agencies to use the new 2012 model in a major project. Calibration and validation of the model was not completed until last year and the associated travel demand forecasting for all of the alternatives was not completed until February of this year. However, it has become apparent that additional time is required to complete the technical studies, which means that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS must be delayed in order to perserve the integrity of the environmental process.

Metro has been working with the community, technical consultants and Caltrans on various alternatives for addressing traffic and environmental impacts within east/northeast Los Angeles, the western San Gabriel Valley and the region generated by a 4 ½ mile gap in the original 710 Freeway design that exists between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The draft EIR/EIS will thoroughly analyze five alternatives – Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management, a freeway tunnel, and a No Build option.

Metro, Caltrans, local cities and private developers all are required to use the SCAG regional travel demand model as a basis for project planning. It predicts future (2035) traffic through a thorough analysis of projected travel patterns considering such factors as population and employment growth, goods movement, land use changes and other variables. Other critical analysis including air quality, a health risk assessment, noise and energy effects also depend on travel demand computer modeling.

Metro and Caltrans are fully committed to ensure that the public has a voice in the process. Detailed analysis for each alternative will be incorporated in the SR 710 North Study draft EIR/EIS. For updates on the revised schedule and project background, go to metro.net/sr710study or facebook.com/sr710study or follow on Twitter @sr710study.

A Better Blue Line: major track improvement work on Blue Line set to start

A southbound Blue Line train approaching the Vernon station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A southbound Blue Line train approaching the Vernon station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A few months ago, Metro announced a $1.2 billion overhaul taking place on the Metro Blue Line. Some of the updates have already been completed, and many others–including major track improvement work–are now getting underway. Metro will make every effort to minimize disruptions to service while work is being done, but as you may have noticed, it’s inevitable some service will be affected.

While dealing with any kind of service disruption is a huge pain in the rear, please keep in mind that once the project is finished, the Blue Line will be better than ever. The end goal is more reliable, frequent service.

We will continually update The Source with more information on the project as it progresses. You can also check the Blue Line Upgrades page for rail alerts or follow Metro on Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metrolaalerts to get service advisories.

Keep reading after the jump to get an idea of what’s being improved.

Continue reading

Union Station: A classic on both big screen and small

This is the fifth of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

With its dramatic angles and dark corners, Union Station is a black-and-white noir fantasy. Yet like a character actor who is aging well, the building has played many types of roles over the past 75 years in hundreds of films, TV shows and commercials.

If you were watching TV during the December holidays you probably caught the Mercedes Benz commercial posted above. Shot in the beautiful Union Station Ticket Room, it’s decked out as Santa’s garage and it looks stellar. And the cars? Amazing!

A few months ago in the TV series “Agents of SHIELD,” hacker Skye (Why does everyone think she’s so hot?) is kidnapped and taken to Union Station so her abductor can escape by train. (Go to minute 35.) She emails SHIELD her longitude and latitude, although she probably could have just said she was at Union Station. No matter. The agents catch up with her in the gorgeous Ticket Room and finally all advance to the East Portal where the SHIELD crew rescues Skye so she can live to hack and be hot again.

In Paramount’s beautiful 1950 noir film “Union Station,” starring William Holden, the station doubles as Chicago Union Station. It does not look much like its Chicago namesake but it does look incredible. And it’s amusing to see a few amenities that no longer exist, like phone booths and a luggage check room in the main concourse. No more phone booths, of course, and no more baggage checking in these days of increased security. You’ll love the trailer:

All areas of Union Station have been backdrops for films but the massive Ticket Room has played significant parts in dozens. In Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller “Blade Runner,” set in 2019, the Ticket Room is a police station and Harrison Ford looks like Indy. “Pearl Harbor” contains a romantic farewell in the Ticket Room. In the latest Batman adventure, “The Dark Knight Rises,” the Ticket Room is site of the kangaroo court overseen by Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow:

What will future roles be for this versatile performer? Stay tuned. The station is also frequently used for music videos — the subject of our next post.

For more Union Station films credits check metro.net (yes, we know the list needs updating!). For Union Station booking guidelines, click here. For more information on booking the station as a shooting location, please contact Jeff Cooper at Hollywood Locations jcooper@hollywoodlocations.com.

RELATED:

Metro Motion celebrates beautiful Union Station’s 75th anniversary

Union Station: a grand opening

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen celebrates the opening

How Harvey House restaurants changed the West

Union Station: a man worthy of respect

Regional Connector design-build contractor recommended by Metro staff

Metro staff recommends a $927.2-million design/build contract with Regional Connector Constructors (a Joint Venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.) to build the Regional Connector project. The staff report is above.

The 1.9-mile underground rail line, forecast to be complete in 2020, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo lines and allow trains to travel directly from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. This should speed trips through downtown and reduce the number of transfers for most riders.

The project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The Board of Directors will consider the contract recommendation at their Construction Committee meeting on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. in the Board Room at Metro headquarters, adjacent to Union Station. The full Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its meeting on Thursday, April 24, at 9:30 a.m.

After the contract is awarded, the Regional Connector will be the fourth rail project now under construction, joining the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Purple Line Extension contract is expected to be awarded this summer and it will be the fifth rail project in Los Angeles under construction because of Measure R. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

map_corridor_reg_conn_eng

Service Advisory: Friday night, Blue Line will run every 40 minutes between DTLA-Willowbrook due to track improvement work

This Friday night, April 18, essential track maintenance will continue on a key crossover of the Metro Blue Line. After 8 p.m., trains will again run every 40 minutes between 7th Street/Metro Center and Willowbrook Station, and will serve the remainder of the Blue Line, between Willowbrook and Long Beach, every 20 minutes.

This means every other northbound train will turn around at Willowbrook Station, and its destination sign departing Downtown Long Beach will read either “Willowbrook” or “Imperial.” Customers should expect all trains to arrive on the Downtown L.A.-bound track between Vernon and Willowbrook stations. Expo Line will be unaffected by the track work and will follow a regular Friday evening schedule, departing every 10 minutes.

Why the exceptionally long wait for trains between 7th Street/Metro Center and Willowbrook? As we mentioned earlier, the maintenance is taking place on a crossover–or switch point–which trains use to move from one track to the other. When work occurs directly on a crossover, trains traveling in both directions must take turns sharing a significantly larger segment of track than they would during routine maintenance. (For more on this, and other track improvement work planned for the Blue Line in the near future, see the last two paragraphs of this post.)

For Blue Line departure times from 7th Street/Metro Center and Downtown Long Beach Station, please refer to Metro’s Service Advisories page. Please note these times may be subject to work-related delays.

If you arrive at 7th Street/Metro Center or Willowbrook with 40 minutes until the next train, consider the Metro Silver and Green Lines as an alternative. Extra buses will run on the Silver Line after 9 p.m., Friday night, increasing the level of service to every 20 minutes. The Green Line will follow a regular Friday evening schedule, with trains departing every 20 minutes.

Metro customer service agents at 7th Street/Metro Center and Willowbrook Station will be providing single-use, polka-dot TAP cards that customers can use to take both the Silver and the Green Line for the price of a one-way Blue Line fare ($1.50). Customers using these temporary cards should TAP when entering the Green Line, and show them to their bus operator when boarding the Silver Line.

Metro customer service agents will be on hand at 7th/Metro and Willowbrook to assist riders from 8 p.m. to close of service. Please note, these temporary TAP cards will only function this Friday evening, and are only for travel between 7th Street/Metro Center and Willowbrook Station. Additionally, if tapped on a Silver Line bus validator, the cards will have no loaded value to open the Green Line turnstiles at Harbor Freeway Station–so remember: all that’s needed on Silver Line is a quick visual inspection by your bus operator and you’re good to go!

The Metro Blue Line is the second busiest light rail line in the United States, averaging over 84,000 weekday boardings. The work this Friday night and for two more Friday nights over the couple of months is related to rehabilitation of the train control/signaling system to ensure reliable performance over the next 25 years. To complete this task, old sections of rail containing embedded components will be replaced with new sections of rail with updated components.  The first of four sections was installed Friday night, March 28.

The process normally takes 6 to 8 hours for each rail, so we work from 9pm Friday night until the first scheduled train on Saturday morning. However, as with any complex project, there is a chance that the next day’s service will be impacted.  This is why we do this type of work on Friday or Saturday nights (instead of Sunday night or other weeknights), so any unforeseen work delays not impact a weekday morning commute, which is significantly heavier than weekend ridership.

Thank you for your understanding as we work to improve the Metro Blue Line.