Transportation headlines, special edition: LA Streetsblog’s post “You can’t fix traffic, you are the traffic” is a must read

Traffic on the 405. Photo by malingering, via Flickr creative commons.

Traffic on the 405. Photo by malingering, via Flickr creative commons.

If you have three minutes to spare, I highly recommend Damien Newton's post in response to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times griping about Westside traffic.

In the Times, editorial writer Carla Hall complained that Los Angeles City Council candidates for the Westside seat (11th district) didn't say much about fixing traffic at a recent Streetsblog forum. She's a longtime Brentwood resident and motorist and doesn't think transit and cycling improvements will help improve her commute to downtown Los Angeles.

I thought the article was intended to be more provocative than informative — it's hard to blame Westside motorists for venting/blowing their stack. Damien apparently thought likewise.

I think the issue that we both had was the notion that traffic can be fixed solely by focusing on traffic. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of evidence from around the world that traffic gets “fixed” — chokepoints can be smoothed, roads can be managed differently (i.e. the ExpressLanes) but it's pretty hard to make traffic go poof and vanish without without wrecking the economy or making it literally illegal or too expensive to drive.

Take it away, Damien:

But to your specific problem, living in Brentwood and commuting via car Downtown there are really only three solutions: move, get a new job, or get over it. That commute is a result of decisions you made and are making. Thanks to a wife that makes quite a bit more than I do, we could live in Brentwood if we wanted to, but we live in Mar Vista. Why? Because the Expo Line and Bike Path are coming. Brentwood may have a legendary private school system and some of the nicest real estate in L.A., but Mar Vista will have much better bike and transit options.It’s all part of the decisions we make. It’s the governments job to make it possible for you to live where you want and can afford and work where you want and can get a job. It’s not their job to make it as easy and smooth as possible. Your commute is part of the price you pay to live in Brentwood and work Downtown.And if you think there are too many cars on the street, remember that you are in one of them. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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Small business and prime contractors meet up to team up for Metro contracting opportunities

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With major projects coming online such as the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension, plus some 25 highway projects in construction phases, prime contractors and small business owners lost no time in making preparations for contracting opportunities at a unique mixer Wednesday.

Twenty-five prime contractors and an estimated 700 small business representatives from approximately 400 firms filled the Metro board room, plaza level and third floor for the fifth annual “Meet the Primes” event held at Metro HQ.

Sponsored by the Metro Diversity & Economic Opportunity Department (DEOD) and the Transportation Business Advisory Council (TBAC), “Meet the Primes” is an opportunity for small businesses and prime contractors to build relationships and teams for Metro procurements. The strategy is for small businesses to have face time with primes, to pitch their service or product and ultimately become part of a prime’s team.

Metro CEO Art Leahy addressed the eager attendees in the board room while the contractors set up interview stations in the lobby and nearby meeting rooms.

This event is held in addition to Metro’s monthly “How To Do Business With Metro” workshops in support of Metro’s Small Business and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs.

Check it out on the DEOD webpages at metro.net. Click on the “Meetings” tab for time and date and to register to attend.

Explaining the other half of America Fast Forward: transportation bonds

America Fast Forward Bonds

Click above to view larger.

Metro last year scored a win when Congress adopted part of the America Fast Forward initiative, expanding a federal loan program called TIFIA that offers low-interest, government backed loans.

Metro is now pushing Congress to adopt the other half of AFF, a bond program designed to raise money to accelerate transportation projects and create jobs.

Which might sound familiar. Everyone in Congress is always talking about job creation, including President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Metro believes AFF is a good way of tackling that issue while also dealing with a few others — expanding transit, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring that our infrastructure remains in good working order.

The bond program is a bit complex: it’s taken me a while to get my brain wrapped around it. The above graphic explains it well. In one sentence: those who invest in transportation bonds receive federal tax credits instead of interest, a good way for investors to lower their tax burden and a good way for transportation agencies to save on interest costs.

Another way of thinking about it: the program doesn’t ask the federal government to spend directly on transportation projects. It does, however, ask the feds to forgo some tax revenues.

Metro is hoping to get the bond and loan program enshrined in the next multi-year federal transportation spending bill. The current bill expires in 2014, meaning a new bill will hopefully be approved by Congress within the next year.

First phase of Metro Red Line celebrates 20-year anniversary

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“This day is here…”

On January 29, 1993, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley stood among a swarm of public officials and transit agency staffers on the cramped Pershing Square subway platform. Standing shoulders above everyone else, including then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, Bradley proudly inaugurated the opening of the first modern subway in Los Angeles.

“Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long we have been pushing on this dream, this vision of what we should do in Los Angeles County,” Bradley said, referring to the subway’s quixotic path to reality in ‘93. “I made a promise when I ran for mayor in 1973 that in 18 months, we’d deliver by breaking ground for rapid transit. Well, I missed by only a few months…”

Today, Metro marks the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, a nearly 4.5-mile construction milestone that began a brand new chapter in regional rail construction and placing L.A. among other major cities across the globe with high-speed, high-capacity subways.

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Metro Requests Proposals to Build Regional Connector Project

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Metro took another step forward toward construction of the Regional Connector Project by issuing a Request for Proposals, or RFP, last week for the 1.9-mile underground light rail line through downtown Los Angeles.

The $1.367-billion project is partially funded with $160 million in Measure R money, and is considered one of the region’s most important transit projects. It will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines in downtown and will create major north-south and east-west transit lines across Los Angeles County. Early utility relocation work officially began in December.

Contractors likely to bid on the project have already been pre-qualified by Metro during an earlier process completed in 2012.  Most are joint venture groups consisting of several construction-related firms. Click here to see a list.

As with the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector will be built using a “design-build” delivery method. This method is also being using to build the first 3.9-mile segment of the Westside Subway Extension from Wilshire/Western to La Cienega.

Major advantages of design-build are a shortened project schedule and overall reduced project costs. The builder is able to start construction while the design is still being completed.

Project proposers will have until May 21 of this year to submit their bids. Metro anticipates selecting a contractor in late fall or following word from the Federal Transit Administration on the status of Metro’s Full Funding Grant Agreement that asks for a federal match to build the project. That could happen by September

The project’s scheduled completion date is 2019.

L.A. becomes more pedestrian friendly with new crosswalk upgrades

DTLA Bike Patrol officers demonstrate how to properly cross a crosswalk with a bike. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

DTLA Bike Patrol officers demonstrate how to properly cross a crosswalk with a bike. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

53 intersections throughout L.A. will be upgraded with continental crosswalks (a.k.a. zebra crossings, see above pic) by March of 2013, which is fantastic news for the thousands that live and work in L.A. Continental crosswalks provide higher visibility to advise motorists that pedestrians may be present, making for a safer walking environment. There’s also a set-back limit line to help reduce vehicular encroachment into the crosswalk area.

Cross with care! Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

Cross with care! Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

Mayor Villaraigosa joined Los Angeles Walks and local business owners this morning to announce the new pedestrian safety intiative at the corner of 5th St. and Spring St., the first intersection to be upgraded. The conversion of the 53 crosswalks is funded through Measure R monies set aside for pedestrian improvements by the mayor and City Council.

Eventually, LADOT would like to make continental crosswalks the new standard for all development and transit projects.

Metro Board Members Antonio Villaraigosa and Pam O’Connor announce start of utility relocation work on Regional Connector

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Photo by Luiz Inzunza/Metro

This morning, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Member Antonio Villaraigosa, Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board Member Pam O’Connor, City Coucil Member Jose Huizar and Metro CEO Art Leahy joined other Metro officials and downtown business leaders to announce the start of utility relocation work to prepare for construction of the Regional Connector.

Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro

Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro

The full press release from Metro:

In the latest milestone toward the delivery of Measure R transit projects to county residents, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today officially began advance utility relocation work for the Regional Connector, a major light rail project in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Utility crews have begun relocating existing underground telecommunication lines on Spring Street near the planned 2nd/Broadway rail station.  Work will begin Friday, December 14, and will continue through April 2013. Work will take place on 2nd Street, between Hill and Main Street.  Additional work will take place on Broadway between 1st and 3rd Streets; Spring Street between 1st and 3rd Streets; and Hill Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets.

The $1.367 billion Regional Connector project, partially funded with $160 million in Measure R sales tax money approved by voters in 2008, is considered one of the region’s most significant transit projects.  The nearly two-mile project will enhance Metro Rail service by providing one continuous trip between Azusa and Long Beach, and between the Eastside and Santa Monica. This project essentially creates two major regional light rail transit lines for Los Angeles County: A north/south line from Azusa to Long Beach, and an east/west line from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica.   In so doing, it minimizes the need for transfers, reducing one-way light rail trip times across the County by 10 to 20 minutes or more.  Eleven intersections also will be improved, including at 1st/Alameda Streets, which will see improved performance and less congestion.

“Today’s advance utility work in Downtown Los Angeles marks the beginning of an improved, integrated transit system for the entire county,” said Michael D. Antonovich, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair. “The light rail connections made by this project will link the Gold Line, Blue Line and Expo Lines, catalyze the entire Metro Rail system, and better prepare Metro to meet the demands of its expanding transit system.”

Transit passengers will have access to three new stations in Downtown Los Angeles: 1st/Central, 2nd/Broadway, and 2nd/Hope.  The new stations are estimated to provide access to 88,200 daily users, including approximately 17,700 new transit riders. 

“The Regional Connector will connect transit riders from East LA to Santa Monica and from the San Gabriel Valley to Long Beach – without a single transfer,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “This vital project puts us one step closer to building the connected regional transportation system that Angelenos want and deserve.”

The Federal Transit Administration recently permitted the Regional Connector project to advance into its Final Design phase.  Metro intends to seek a Full Funding Grant Agreement through FTA’s New Starts Program next year, which would constitute a federal matching contribution to the project. Metro estimates construction of the tunnel and new stations could begin in late 2013.  The project, if fully funded, could open in 2019.

The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation forecasts that the Regional Connector project will create 15,400 jobs (direct, indirect and induced), $890 million in labor income, and $2.38 billion in business revenue generated by the project in the Southern California region.

For more information about the Regional Connector project, visit metro.net/regionalconnector.

About Measure R

Measure R, approved by two-thirds of L.A. County voters in 2008, commits a projected $40 billion to traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county over the next 30 years.  This sales tax measure will help fund dozens of critical transit and highway projects, create more than 210,000 new construction jobs and infuse an estimated $32 billion back into the local economy, according to estimates by the nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

Gold Line Foothill Extension Bridge is complete!

A 584-foot bridge over the eastbound lanes of the 210 freeway — the first major piece of infrastructure for the Gold Line Foothill Extension — is now complete, on time and on budget. The media had their chance to see the bridge this morning and a public ceremony will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon at Newcastle Park in Arcadia (101 W. Colorado Boulevard).

The Foothill Extension will extend the Gold Line from its final station in Pasadena for 11.5 miles to the Azusa/Glendora border, near both Citrus College and Azusa Pacific University. The new $18.6-million bridge will take the two train tracks from the middle of the 210 freeway across the eastbound lanes to the south side of the freeway.

The project will have one set of tracks in each direction and is being built atop an old freight railroad right-of-way. An old bridge that spanned the 210 was demolished because of seismic concerns following the 1993 Northridge earthquake.

The concept and design for the new bridge was conceived by Andrew Leicester, who told the media that he wanted to build a structure that served as a gateway to the San Gabriel Valley. The San Gabriel Mountain foothills have long been an important travel corridor in Southern California, beginning with Native Americans and continuing to the advent of Route 66 and, later, the 210 freeway. Leicester said the 25-foot-tall baskets on the bridge commemorate the main tool Native Americans used in their travels.

Habib Balian, the CEO of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, said that 92 percent of the materials used to construct the bridge were manufactured in Southern California.

Skanksa USA was the contractor that built the bridge; architecture and engineering was done by AECOM.

The Construction Authority is an independent agency building the line that will be operated by Metro. The project is funded by Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Measure J results updated again; yes votes rise to 65.33 percent

Here are the latest Measure J results, posted a few minutes ago the Los Angeles County Registrar.

According to the Registar, 130,063 ballots were added to the election results today. It appears of those, 112,383 cast a vote in the Measure J election. That brings the estimated total still to be counted to 215,991 ballots, according to the Registrar.

Measure J needs two-thirds voter approval to pass. As we’ve said the last two weeks, it’s possible but unlikely due to two issues: 1) of the remaining votes to be counted, it’s unlikely all of them cast votes for or against Measure J, and; 2) Of the ballots remaining, it’s likely that at least 75 percent of them would need to be ‘yes’ votes for Measure J to pass.

The news release from the Registrar is posted after the jump.

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Go Metro to the East LA Safe Connections Festival

This Saturday, Nov. 17, take the Gold Line to the East LA Civic Center for the East LA Safe Connections Festival. The free community event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and features safety courses, workshops and live entertainment. East LA residents can also provide input on neighborhood improvements during the community open house.

This is the first of two community events for the Metro Gold Line Eastside Station Access Project, a Measure R project that will provide $9 million worth of improvements. The full press release from Metro is after the jump.

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