More details on $640.8-million loan for Westside Subway Extension

Below is the news release from Metro on the news earlier today that the Westside Subway Extension is about to secure a $640.8-million federal TIFIA loan. As the release states, Metro staff will be working in the next several weeks to determine the exact impact the loan will have on the construction timeline.

TIFIA Loan for Westside Subway Extension Achieves Welcome Milestone

Earlier today, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein issued a joint press release announcing that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) was taking a major step toward approval of a $640.8 Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the Westside Subway Extension. The expansion of the TIFIA program is a centerpiece of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative, which also calls for the creation of a Qualified Transportation Improvement Bond (QTIBs) program.

“Today’s announcement is a critical step towards creating an ambitious, multi-faceted transit network and putting Angelenos back to work,” Mayor and Chair of the MTA Antonio Villaraigosa said. “With this latest, generous loan commitment from the federal government, we will extend the Metro Purple Line from Koreatown to Century City all the way into Westwood, better serving the 300,000 commuters that pour into these job centers every day and putting approximately 40,000 Angelenos back to work.”

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Westside Subway Extension receives $640.8-million federal loan

The route for the Westside Subway Extension that is currently in the final environmental study phase.

Very good news today for the Westside Subway Extension: a $640.8-million loan neared final approval for the project by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

The loan is coming from the TIFIA program, which is the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. TIFIA loans are helpful because they offer the ability to lock down good interest rates and repayment terms.

The loan will be paid back with funds from Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. The trick with Measure R funds is that they flow in slowly over time and have to be split among the many Measure R projects. A loan, on the other hand, is money that can be spent now on the subway project, which carries a hefty pricetag of about $5.3 billion if built in the next decade. Which is still no sure thing.

Under Measure R and the agency’s long-range plan, Metro is planning to build the subway in three phases: to Fairfax by 2019, Century City by 2026 and Westwood by 2036. But Metro is trying to persuade Congress to approve the America Fast Forward plan that would expand TIFIA and other federal financing to speed up the construction of big and expensive transit projects. The loan helps that cause but does not ensure it will happen.

Here’s Metro’s TIFIA application for the subway, which lists June 30, 2022 as the opening date for service to Westwood — the hope under America Fast Forward. That’s a projection obviously and not written in stone, but nonetheless interesting. The application also has construction beginning in earnest in 2013, a date we’ve heard in the past from Metro staff.

The news release from Senators Boxer and Feinstein is posted after the jump.
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Sen. Schumer plugs elements of America Fast Forward last week

As we’ve crossed the halfway point of 2011, Metro’s government relations staff are still plugging away and hoping to persuade Congress to make America Fast Forward [AFF] the law of the land.

AFF would provide government loans and other financing that would allow Metro to accelerate the construction of 12 Measure R transit projects. As things stand now, those projects would be built between now and 2038. With AFF, Metro is hoping to condense that timeline to the next decade or so.

The goal is to make AFF part of the next multiyear transportation spending bill, which is already two-plus years overdue. On the plus side, AFF continues to get some plugs from both sides of the aisle — including the following one from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York). Here’s the email from Metro CEO Art Leahy to staff:

Yesterday [last Thursday], key elements of America Fast Forward received a significant boost in Washington, D.C. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the third Ranking Senate Democrat and the Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee unveiled the Democratic Senate’s job creation plan that focuses primarily on “A Highway Bill that will put people back to work building critical infrastructure,” as well as creating a National Infrastructure Bank.

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Construction overview fact sheet now online for Westside Subway Extension


The rendering shows temporary lane closures for initial excavation prior to installation of concrete decking.

I’ll cut right to the part of the new construction fact sheet for the Westside Subway Extension that will likely interest you most:

Construction Schedule

Construction timing for the Project is dependent upon how the funding package for the project comes together. Presuming that the environmental clearance process concludes in 2011 and funding is secured, final design and contractor selection processes would occur in 2012.

It is likely that early utility relocation work and removal of paleontological resources (fossils) below Wilshire Bl in the vicinity of the La Brea Tar Pits could start sometime in 2012, with heavier construction starting on tunnels and stations in 2013. If funding is secured to build the 9-mile extension all at the same time, construction along the entire alignment to the Westwood/VA Hospital could potentially be completed by 2022. In this case, several pairs of TBMs would be used, tunneling various segments of tunnel at the same time, with work proceeding on all stations simultaneously.

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America Fast Forward: Keeping Houston's light rail solution on track

The rail component of the Metro Solutions plan. The first light rail line in downtown Houston opened in 2004.

This is the fifth story in our series examining how L.A. County’s 30/10 financing model — and its national counterpart America Fast Forward — could help other cities around the country.

A light rail car on Main Street in Houston. Photo by accent on eclectic, via Flickr.

Los Angeles’ image as the nation’s capital of cars and sprawl persists, despite its having among the highest number of transit riders in the country and dozens of dense, urban neighborhoods. There are almost certainly many other regions as dependent on private vehicles as L.A. and one of them is Harris County, Texas.

After all, it’s the home of Houston, a city that’s both the petroleum energy capital of America and less than half as densely populated as Los Angeles. It’s also a region that’s considering a third outer-belt highway bypass into undeveloped prairie lands, one that Infrastructurist skewered as a “highway to nowhere.”

But there’s a competing vision on the table for the future of Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city. And this transit alternative vision was embraced by Houston-area residents in November 2003, when they approved a long-range transit plan to be implemented by Metro, the regional transit agency for Harris County. Light Rail Now described the measure’s passage accordingly:

Voters approved by 52% the Metro Solutions plan – including an immediate $640 million revenue bond measure for Metro, the transit agency, to undertake construction of 22 miles of rail transit, with both light rail (LRT) and regional “commuter”-type rail. The vote also authorizes 44 new bus routes, doubles HOV lanes, and extends Houston Metro’s participation in local road projects…The bonding program is part of a $7.5 billion regional transit plan which will build eventually 73 miles of rail transit. Metro will now seek federal matching funds for the new rail projects.

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Metro officials talk planning at TOD conference

A 30-10 map on display at a Metro information table.

A 30-10 map (ca. 2010) on display at a Metro information table.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the Urban Land Institute held a conference in Pasadena on Thursday to discuss transit-oriented development in the greater-L.A. area.

The aim of the conference was to figure out a way to put more development around transit hubs. It’s a strategy embraced in many places to promote alternatives to driving and provide housing closer to jobs.

There is also evidence it’s already taking hold here in Los Angeles County. Thousands of units of new housing near transit have sprouted in North Hollywood, Hollywood, Koreatown, Long Beach, downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena in recent years. That said, there are many places along the Metro Rail system where there has been little or no development.

Metro played a big role at the conference because it’s involved in building transit-oriented developments on land it owns near rail and bus stops.

One panel’s topic was: “Where is the ‘T’ in TOD? What is the status of major projects in Los Angeles County.”

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Business and labor groups reaffirm support for America Fast Forward

Fox and Hounds Daily this week published an editorial titled, “Putting American Workers and Businesses Back In the Fast Lane,” that makes a strong push for support of America Fast Forward.

The authors of the piece were Gary Toebben, President of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Both smartly want to see Measure R transit projects built in the next decade instead of the next three decades.

Needless to say, business and labor don’t always agree on public policy issues. However, in Los Angeles they’ve come together to support investing in public transportation and creating jobs. And right now, the way to get that done is by getting all hands on deck in support of America Fast Forward, also known locally as the 30/10 plan (30 years of transit projects in 10 years — get it?).

The plan, which Toebben and Durazo call “a shining example of hope and collaboration,” would work the following way:

AFF calls for increasing and leveraging the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to support the private sector in creating jobs now by building projects on a faster timeline…[meaning] that construction teams can get to work building a 21st century public transportation system today — not years from now.

As the piece notes, Congress is presently outlining its priorities for the next multi-year transportation bill, and Toebben and Durazo praise a bipartisan group of Senators — including California Sen. Barbara Boxer — for committing their support for expanding TIFIA and enshrining America Fast Forward in law.

So, check out the piece for yourself and let us know what you think.

SoCal transportation group says "thanks" to Congressional leaders for supporting America Fast Forward

Mobility 21, a transportation advocacy group made up of Southern California stakeholders, have expressed thanks to a bipartisan group of Senators for developing a new transportation bill called  “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” or MAP-21.

One of the key components of MAP-21 is America Fast Forward (PDF) – an idea that started in Los Angeles as the 30/10 Initiative – a program designed to use federal dollars to support locally approved and funded projects (like Measure R projects).

Here’s the full press release from Mobility 21:

Southern California’s leaders applaud the bipartisan group of U.S. senators for outlining a new federal transportation program called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” or MAP-21.

At its strategic planning meeting in Orange County, Calif., members of Mobility 21 – a bipartisan transportation advocacy group of business and government – specifically expressed their thanks to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.) of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for taking the necessary steps to improve transportation investment for America’s future. Mobility 21 represents seven counties and 21 million residents of Southern California. Mobility 21 also issued a call to move swiftly to pass MAP-21 incorporating these key provisions:

  • America Fast Forward – a program to stretch federal dollars for locally approved and funded transportation projects to take advantage of low construction costs and create hundreds of thousands of jobs at significant savings to American taxpayers. This adds funding to Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Investment Act (TIFIA) projects.
  • Breaking Down Barriers – a national initiative to expedite project delivery without sacrificing the environment or the rights of people to be heard which will accelerate the creation of more than 800,000 much-needed jobs across America.
  • Goods Movement – a strong, focused freight delivery program that efficiently moves goods throughout the nation and beyond. This would sustain nearly 1 million jobs in Southern California and an additional 2 million jobs nationwide.

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Former NYC traffic commissioner lauds America Fast Forward

Over at the Engineering News Record, former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz took to his transportation blog to extol the benefits of America Fast Forward. A lot of the issues he touches on will be familiar to Source readers. Here’s an excerpt from the piece in which Schwartz discusses how AFF could forge a new — and perhaps more sustainable — relationship between the federal government and cities:

Essentially the idea is the same as the 30/10 method: the Fed would lend sizable sums upfront to local entities with dedicated revenue streams such as sales tax proceeds. The carrot for the taxpayers is the promise that transportation projects are completed in a timely manner, in some cases that could be years, rather than decades.

There’s a carrot for Congress too: according to America Fast Forward supporters, passing legislation to enact the program can put 920,000 Americans per year building our national infrastructure without contributing to the national debt.

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Minneapolis Post asks: Could America Fast Forward work for the Twin Cities?

The Twin Cities Metrpolitan Council's 2030 Transitway Plan featuring commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and improved bus corridors.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been running our ongoing series where we ask the question: How could America Fast Forward work for other cities around the country? Well, Minneapolis was definitely on our radar, but it looks like Minneapolis Post writer Steve Berg beat us to the punch.

In his story, Los Angeles tries to accelerate transit: Would it work here?, Berg takes a preliminary look at how federal loans and financing could support Minneapolis’ hope to greatly expand its rapid transit network.

A bus rapid transit station in downtown Minneapolis via Flickr user Payton Chung.

But before we delve into that question, some background: The Twin Cities region reached a population of 2.85 million in 2010, with most of the recent population growth happening in the suburbs, according to the most recent Census Bureau data [PDF].

The challenge for transportation planners in the region is to knit together these existing communities, while planning for future development in an era of increasing gas prices and decreasing vehicle miles traveled. The current transit system [PDF] provides a total of 218 transit routes, including a variety of fixed-route bus lines, one light rail line, one commuter rail line and an assortment of vanpool and paratransit services.

To support a goal of doubling transit ridership by 2030, five counties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area approved a 1/4-cent sales tax increase to pay for a large expansion of “transitways” — bus rapid transit, light rail and other transit that runs in its own dedicated right-of-way. The plan calls for building a half-dozen new transitways on top of the existing network. Continue reading