Metro recommends technical study of two alternatives for Eastside Gold Line Phase 2

As many of you know, the draft environmental study for the Eastside Gold Line Transit Corridor Phase 2 project was released in August. Among the study alternatives being considered are extending the Eastside Gold Line from East Los Angeles to South El Monte and/or Whittier, as well as the Transportation System Management and the legally-required no build options.

Now that over 1,130 public comments have been received by Metro, agency staff are recommending that they go forward with a technical study to further refine the two light rail alternatives. The Metro staff report and recommendation is above or can also be viewed online here. Here is the project’s web page, which includes an FAQ and interactive map.

The State Route 60 North Side Design Variation (NSDV) alternative to be studied further would end in the city of South El Monte alignment and would mostly be situated on the south side of the 60 freeway. It would swing north of the freeway between Greenwood Avenue and Paramount Avenue to avoid the south side of the OII superfund site.

The Washington Blvd alternative would end in the city of Whittler and will be refined to avoid an aerial section of tracks along Garfield Avenue in Montebello between Via Campo and Whittier Boulevard that was determined to have an unavoidable visual and aesthetic impact as well as community and neighborhood impactThat means that the technical study must find another north-south route for the tracks between the 60 freeway and Washington Boulevard.

Another key question to be answered in the technical study: whether it is operationally possible to split the Eastside Gold Line so that it could serve both South El Monte and Whittier if both alternatives were to be built — and how ridership on both alternatives would be impacted if trains ran less frequently in order to serve both branches.

The technical study will eventually be folded in the project’s final environmental document. After the technical study is completed — which is anticipated to take 1½ to two years Metro staff will return to the Metro Board with an answer on the operational question of building both alternatives. The Board at that time will likely decide whether to study one or both alternatives in the final environmental impact report.

“We have the time to do this well and do this right,” said Laura Cornejo, the Eastside Phase 2 project manager. “The technical study gives us the chance to look at some very important questions and concerns raised by agencies and stakeholders.”

The Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 is scheduled to receive $1.27 billion (in 2010 dollars) from the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The challenge facing Metro is that ridership estimates for both light rail alternatives for the second phase of the Eastside project are strong and both alternatives are already in Metro’s long-range plan. But Metro only has enough funding secured at this time to build one of them.

That could change depending on whether the Metro Board decides next year to put a transportation ballot measure to county voters in Nov. 2016 that could potentially raise more money for the project. The Board would also have to decide to allocate funds for both alternatives.

Under Metro’s long-range plan, the second phase of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension is not scheduled to be in operation until 2035. Which is another issue facing the project: whether Metro could raise the money between federal sources (i.e. expanded federal funding) and/or a ballot measure to accelerate construction of the project.

29 replies

  1. Here is a novel concept, how about trying to fund both projects to serve the communities along each route?

  2. I don’t get why it wouldn’t be technically possible to have two branches. Lines have been designed with multiple branches pretty much since urban rail transport began (think Boston Green Line or basically every NY Subway line), and Metro already does it with Red and Purple. It shouldn’t be too difficult to at least design for future compatibility with a second branch, even if it’s not built immediately.

    Indeed, that’s an approach Metro should look at elsewhere–for example, a branch off the Blue Line to San Pedro, a branch off Expo down Venice, or a branch off the Red Line to serve Silver Lake and Glendale.

    • Hi Anonymous Reader/Fakey;

      The issue is that Metro is planning on running trains on an east-west line (Santa Monica to East L.A. and Long Beach to Azusa) after the Regional Connector is completed. If service is split beyond East L.A., those branches won’t have service as often as the rest of the system.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Not to mention, the Regional Connector is to have only two tracks, and with the current Blue Line at capacity, with no room for train extensions or more trains, the service patterns would need to be rerouted onto either the current Gold Line route, or onto another connector in the future.

  3. I think they should build both. By the time they are finished building, the Gold Line will be running east/west to Santa Monica, and then metro can build a branch from culver city into Venice, re-routing one of these lines that way.
    Of the two, I’d prefer the state route 60 Alternative because it has a stop at the huge Whittier Narrows Park. I’d love to take the train for a nice stroll around the lakes.

  4. Unless the 2016 ballot measure includes as it’s number one priority a light rail line from Century City to the CBD via Santa Monica Bl./Sunset Bl. I will actively oppose said measure. While other parts of the county is receiving light rail lines to alleviate crowded routes the most congested route thru metro Los Angeles is left to only get worse when coupled with continuing redevelopment.

    Century City was envisioned and built anticipating the completion of the Glendale Freeway, Route 2. It was killed by Jerry Brown during his previous time as Governor. It was not just envisioned, the plans were drawn and the property acquired.

    • That would seem too close to the Purple Line Extension, no? CC definitely needs better connectivity, but a SMB line seems like a lower priority than, say, accelerating the Sepulveda Pass line and building a line along Lincoln from LAX to SaMo. I’m certainly not saying it should never be done–just that corridors with no rapid transit service should probably be a higher priority than a third line from the Westside to Downtown (after Expo and Purple Extension are done). On the Westside, I think better N-S connectivity (like the idea of extending Crenshaw-LAX up Fairfax to WeHo and looping back to Hollywood/Highland) is a higher priority than more E-W.

      SMB BRT might be a good interim solution, though, although I assume Beverly Hills won’t be cooperative.

    • It is already sort of funded, it’s called the Purple Line Phase 2. There are two glaring issues though: Funding and Beverly Hills.

      • The Purple Line will run underneath Wilshire Bl. turn west at about Santa Monica Bl. thru Century City then return to Wilshire Bl. and as currently planned end at the V. A. Commuters from the Westside apparently live adjacent to Santa Monica Bl. or close to it. Much of the former right of way are still in place especially in Beverly Hills where the only obstruction is a couple of parking structures. It’s unclear to me who actually owns the right of way but fallowing prior light rail projects the MTA may well be the owner this land too. As such the city of Beverly Hills would have a difficult time holding up any construction since said land is grandfathered as rail line right of way. Attempting to use the Purple Line as an alternative is as meaningless as stating the 10 Freeway is a valid alternative.

        Light Rail should be built where it is needed not where it’s the most convenient to construct. East Washington Bl. bus service was first contracted out by the MTA and now no longer exists as a MTA line. When the MTA did run it there was a 30 to 60 minute headway. Line 4 runs about every 20 minute Owl service some trips with standing loads using articulated buses. During the day buses are scheduled about every five minutes.

  5. Question for Steve — While I absolutely love metro’s expansion, I can’t help but think that building “the pink line” and/or a connection between the Crenshaw and the future Purple is of extraordinarily-higher importance. We have a massive gap (in the city of LA) that we should be addressing all-hands-on-deck, before building a line to a suburb that most of us couldn’t point to on a map. (and I understand the costs are much higher to build u/g rail), but what are the priorities here?

    • Hi MetroFan:

      An extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line beyond what is being built (Green Line to Expo Line) is in Metro’s long-range plan as a tier one unfunded project. In other words, the plan acknowledges that there is need for such a project but hasn’t defined it in terms of location, price, how it would be funded. Also, here’s a 2009 feasibility study that looks at extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north to the Purple Line Extension. If Metro pursues a ballot measure for 2016 that would fund new projects — emphasis on the word ‘if’ — then it will be interesting to see which projects the Metro Board selects for funding.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Steve,

        Wouldn’t now be the time to make sure the Purple line is engineered/constructed to ensure seamless integration with the future Crenshaw Line? Is this issue being actively reviewed and engineering plans updated for this very likely scenario? From what I read, it appears both lines will be below grade when they meet so I would imagine the transfer between the lines would be underground (this is good). If the transfer point ends up being some embarrassment like the Expo Line and Crenshaw Line transfer point will be…Metro needs take a serious look at its leadership.

        My fear is that the station box(s) for the Purple line will NOT be engineered/built to accommodate a future Crenshaw line. Which will mean Wilshire Blvd, after being torn to pieces, businesses impacted for years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent Wilshire will have to be torn up AGAIN to add the Crenshaw line. Government agencies like Metro seem to think this type of behavior (wasting money and time) is OK, but for those of us who actually want to see the system successfully expanded in our life times this “waste” needs to be kept in check and people held accountable for lack of foresight and poor decision making.

        With regards to the argument Metro hasn’t finalized the Northern Extension of the Crenshaw Line so Metro cannot finalize which Purple Line extension station will need the Crenshaw Line transfer interface…what is stopping Metro from finalizing the Northern Extension of the Crenshaw Line Studies and Environmental Reports? If its a lack of money for the final Studies/Reports Metro should consider NOT spending money on projects with little to no return on investment (like spending millions to renovate the old Lankershim train depot…money that should have been spent on stuff riders will actually use).

        I look forward to your response.

        Thanks

        Concerned

        • Hi Concerned;

          I’ll try to find out the answer — and headed into podcast for rest of the work day. I don’t know off the top of my head but will see what I can learn.

          Best,

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

    • “We have a massive gap (in the city of LA) that we should be addressing all-hands-on-deck, before building a line to a suburb that most of us couldn’t point to on a map.”

      Spoken like a true Westsider

      • Or build a line along one of the busiest corridors in the Los Angeles area that is not also served by a freeway. Santa Monica Bl. between west L. A. and downtown Los Angeles. Better yet connect the west end with the Expo Line at Sepulvada Bl. running north to Santa Monica Bl.

        But no, what’s being proposed is another extension to a line meandering thru small communities where minimal bus service is now being provided due to low passenger loads.

  6. Steve, will they also study whether the Washington Blvd alternative could be operated as a separate “shuttle line”? IOW, have the State Route 60 alternative operate as a continuation of the “Gold Line”, while having the Washington Blvd alternative effectively operate as its “own line”, with transfers to the Gold Line at the Garfield Av. station? I think that should definitely be studied along side operating both alternatives as “branches” of the Gold Line…

    • Hi IJB;

      I think at this point the focus will be on continuing to study each line as a potential extension of the Gold Line. I think questions about shuttles or alternatives for either branch will be something more appropriate for consideration in the final environmental study that will come after this technical study. Shuttle or branch – the key question will still be how to fund both segments.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  7. Just skimmed through the 2009 study. A couple of questions: (1) Why did the plan not advance beyond the drawing board? (2) Now that the Crenshaw/LAX Line is under construction, will Metro revisit this northern extension into WeHo?

    • Hi Martin;

      1. Without enough funding, it was decided to build the segment first between Green Line and Expo as this was a segment that would serve a high ridership area along Crenshaw Boulevard and also get Metro Rail closer to the airport.

      2. It will ultimately be up to the Metro Board of Directors whether to pursue a northern extension of any type. Nothing is in the works at the moment, but as I mentioned earlier, Metro is considering a potential 2016 ballot measure which could potentially fund new projects. The key words there are ‘potential.’ As we get into next spring, we should have a better idea what projects that Metro staff and the Board are considering. The agency has been asking cities and sub-regions around the county for their feedback on developing a list.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. The former P.E. Randolph Line, on exclusive right of way, through Huntington Park, Bell/Maywood, Bell Gardens, Pico Rivera and Los Nietos, is a far better way to reach Whittier. It could be a branch of the planned West Santa Ana Branch service planned for the same time frame. The Santa Monica to East L.A. Gold Line could then be extended to South El Monte and both corridors would have service without impacting frequency.

  9. I think the Whittier line should be built first because Whittier is undeserved by metro by not having a rail line going to the city. The Whittier line will also serve both South El Monte and Whittier unlike the South El Monte line that will only serve South El Monte

  10. One more question, Steve – is Metro Government Relations working with Sacramento to see what the prospects are for another statewide infrastructure bond in the next few years, now that Prop 1B funds are almost fully committed?

    • I know our govt relations folks are in touch with Sacramento on a daily basis on variety of issues. I haven’t heard of another statewide transportation bond and I’m not sure what the viability is given some of the other upcoming state bonds for other things (such as water). But I’ll ask if anything is in the works.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. I really think that the southern alignment has one over-riding feature that make it superior. Once the line reaches Whittier, the next logical step would be to run it down to the eastern terminus of the Green Line. This woul strengthen the system as a whole. Connecting these 2 lines will help spread the load that is carried on the Blue line to downtown. A simple alignment would hit most of the populated areas of Santa Fe Springs. Further extending it down to the West Santa Ana line help take passengers that now travel the I-605. Just like getting the SFV corridor extended from Sylmar to LAX and the Green Line back down to the Blue, this is one of the connections that makes it a real -system- that serves everywhere, and not just a spider that feeds downtown.

    • It would also be great to extend the Green Line from existing terminus in Norwalk a couple miles east to connect to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink station.

      • I read the City of Norwalk doesn’t want the rail line in its streets.However, Norwalk would agree to an underground light rail. Maybe with the Cap and Trade $$$ metro might consider linking the green line to the Metro Station.