A few more points on America Fast Forward

As many of you know, President Obama last week signed a two-year federal transportation spending bill. In recent decades, Congress has usually approved bills that cover more years but in these hyper-partisan times, and after nine extensions of the bill that expired in 2009, this definitely was a victory.

In addition, the bill contained part of the America Fast Forward program that has been created by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and backed by the Metro Board of Directors for the past couple of years.

America Fast Forward (pdf) originally called for expansion of both a federal bond program called QTIB and a federal loan program called TIFIA. The bond part of the program didn’t get traction in Congress — it involved some serious federal spending — but a hefty increase in TIFIA did make it into the bill. And that’s good news for Metro and transit agencies across the land who want to borrow money to build projects now rather than wait years or decades.

In particular because the bill greatly expanded the federal TIFIA program that provides loans, loan guarantees to local transportation projects around the country at competitive interest rates (today’s interest rate is 2.63 percent for a 35-year loan, by the way). As the TIFIA website puts it, “Each dollar of Federal funds can provide up to $10 in TIFIA credit assistance – and leverage $30 in transportation infrastructure investment.”

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Gallery: Metro Orange Line Extension on opening day

On board the Orange Line bound for Chatsworth

On board the Orange Line bound for Chatsworth

June 30, 2012: Scenes from opening day of the Metro Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth. Click on images below to view.

Photos by Gary Leonard

Orange Line festivities, free rides draw midday crowds

Metro Orange Line extension to Chatsworth construction chief Hitesh Patel, center, and John Parker, chairman of United Chambers of Commerce, join the Canoga Park/West Hills Chamber of Commerce for the ribbon-cutting at Canoga Station as the community welcomes the new four-mile extension of the Metro Orange Line. Photo by Dave Sotero.

Metro Orange Line extension to Chatsworth project manager Hitesh Patel, center, and John Parker, chairman of United Chambers of Commerce, join the Canoga Park/West Hills Chamber of Commerce for the ribbon-cutting at Canoga Station as the community welcomes the new four-mile extension of the Metro Orange Line. Photo by Dave Sotero.

Metro and the West Valley communities are celebrating the opening of the Orange Line Extension today. Festivities continue to 4 p.m. and include food trucks, live music and community booths.

Chatsworth folks staged a ribbon cutting with Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, center, and Orange Line Transportation Manager Gary Spivack. To Spivack's right is Hitesh Patel, who directed the construction of the Orange Line Extension, and, at far left, is California Congressman Howard Berman. Photo by Dave Sotero.

Chatsworth folks staged a ribbon cutting with Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, center, and Orange Line Transportation Manager Gary Spivack. To Spivack’s right is Hitesh Patel, who directed the construction of the Orange Line Extension, and, at far left, is California Congressman Howard Berman. Photo by Dave Sotero.

At the Canoga Station, check out the community booths, food trucks, a group bicycle ride with Valley Bikery and live performances by Vocal Percussion Radio, Two Dogs Band, Tripletrouble, West 79th Street Funk Jazz Band

At the Chatsworth Station, there’s community booths, food trucks, a petting zoo and pony rides for children provided by The Farm. Also, live performances are presented by Cowboy Palace – Country Gone Awry and Coldwater Canyon – and Metro Express.

Rides on the Orange Line Extension from Canoga Station to Chatsworth Station are free both today and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Regular fares apply on all other Metro Rail, Metro Rapid and Metro Local lines.

Online: All about the Orange Line Extension

Ready to Roll: Metro Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth

Video of today’s event in Chatsworth by Mario Noriega.

Metro Orange Line bus breaks through banner at dedication event held at the new CHatsworth Station. Yes, that's Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the operator's cab. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Metro Orange Line bus breaks through banner at dedication event held at the new Chatsworth Station. Yes, that’s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the operator’s cab. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Here’s the news release:
June 29, 2012
CONTACT: Dave Sotero/Marc Littman– Media Relations

Measure R Project Success:
Officials Celebrate Completion of Metro Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth Ahead of Schedule, Under Budget

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), joined by city, county and state officials, today celebrated the completion of the Metro Orange Line Extension, a four-mile addition to the wildly popular dedicated busway that will enhance regional transit connections to and from the Western San Fernando Valley.

The first transit project identified in Measure R to begin construction in 2009 has been completed ahead of schedule by three and a half years, and its original $215.6 million budget is currently forecasted to come in at approximately $154 million, $61 million under budget. The final project savings will depend on the closeout of the project, including the resolution of any final change orders with the contractor. Prior to the passage of Measure R, this transit project was scheduled to open in 2016.

The brand new north/south busway extension from Canoga Park to Chatsworth was built on a Metro-owned, former Union Pacific railroad right-of-way and adds four new stations, three new or reconfigured parking lots, a new busway bridge over active railroad tracks, two new busway bridges that cross waterways, new signalized busway/street crossings, street resurfacing improvements, new bicycle/pedestrian path, and landscaping similar to the original Metro Orange Line.

Now at 18 miles, the busway and its adjacent pedestrian/bikeway are the longest of their kind in Los Angeles County.

“Today we celebrate yet another Measure R transit milestone in Los Angeles with the opening of the Metro Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. City Mayor and Metro Board Chair. “The busway extension will greatly expand the connectivity of the region’s transportation network, creating new linkages between Metro, Southern California’s Metrolink system and the statewide Amtrak network. It is the latest example of how Metro is creating a world class 21st century transportation system in Los Angeles County.”

The official opening of the line will be Saturday, June 30. Community festivities will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday only at the Canoga and Chatsworth Stations and will include food trucks, live music, group bike rides and much more. Free rides on the extension are planned both Saturday and Sunday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Regular fares will apply on all other Metro Rail, Metro Rapid and Metro Local lines.

“The Orange Line is the most successful busway in America,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Director. “With the opening of this new segment, the northwest San Fernando Valley will now be served by this very popular mass transit line.”

Metro’s Congestion Management Plan reports that nearly 50 percent of San Fernando Valley home-to-work trips are made to destinations outside the Valley. The extension of the busway to the Chatsworth Metrolink/Amtrak Station, which also serves several Metro and municipal bus lines, is expected to offer these residents more public transit options for these trips. The Chatsworth Station is one of the busiest stations on Metrolink’s Ventura County Line. Amtrak’s San Diego to San Luis Obispo Pacific Surfliner also makes stops at Chatsworth.

“The Orange Line Extension is a project that improves L.A.’s transportation system by connecting different modes of public transportation to entertainment venues and employment centers,” said Richard Katz, Metrolink Board Chair and Metro Board Director. “Metrolink customers will now have a direct connection from the Chatsworth station to the Warner Center, a major employment and retail shopping destination in the San Fernando Valley and can take advantage of the Metro Orange Line connection at no additional cost with their Metrolink ticket.”

By the year 2030, the extension is expected to generate 9,000 new average weekday boardings. Metro projects the entire Metro Orange Line including the extension will generate 45,000 daily riders by 2030. When originally opened in October 2005, Orange Line ridership immediately exceeded Metro forecasts, with nearly triple the amount of daily boardings. Most recent ridership figures for May 2012 were 26,670 average weekday boardings.

“The new four mile Orange Line extension is the latest addition to Metro’s rapidly expanding transit system,” said State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). “The Orange Line extension is a huge plus for people living and working in the San Fernando Valley, as well as improving the quality of life of residents throughout our region.”

New platforms have been added at the Canoga Station for Metro customers heading north on the extension, and a new 207-space park and ride lot has also been built at the Sherman Way Station. There will be a total of 1,075 parking spaces available at all three park & ride lots on the extension, and more than 4,000 parking spaces throughout the line.

“The Orange Line Extension is a tremendous benefit for valley commuters,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman. “It is clear evidence of the major transit improvements Measure R is enabling us to achieve for the greater LA region.”

The travel time for the busway is approximately 51 minutes from North Hollywood to the Chatsworth Station. Service will be split between North Hollywood/Warner Center and North Hollywood/Chatsworth. Peak weekday shuttle service will operate between Warner Center and Chatsworth approximately every 15 minutes.

“Bumper to bumper traffic should not be an inevitable part of our daily routines in Los Angeles where we are always one highway closure away from Carmageddon,” said Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley). “We are one step closer to providing real transit alternatives for the Valley so that people can get of their cars and on with their lives.”

Several contributing factors led to the project being completed ahead of time and under budget: a low bid during a significant economic downtown, good project management and cost savings associated with early completion.

The Metro Art program has installed art works at all Metro Orange Line stations. Tours of the stations along this line, as well as all Metro Rail stations, are available by arrangement for groups of 15 or more. For more information, visit metro.net/art.

The Orange Line Extension is a Measure R project. Fortunately, Metro was able to secure other funding to help pay for busway construction. Measure R taxpayers will benefit from $182 million that was earmarked for this transit project which can be applied to another San Fernando Valley transportation improvement in the future subject to Metro Board approval.

For additional information, visit metro.net/projects/orangeline.

Assembly approves bill that would allow Metro to seek Measure R extension

The bill, AB 1446 (by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles), still needs to be approved by the State Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. And a majority of the Metro Board of Directors also need to approve sending the issue to Los Angeles County voters.

The Metro Board is scheduled to discuss the issue at their meeting on Thursday morning. The Board may take a vote as early as next month. Here’s a recent post on a Metro staff report about how such an extension may work to accelerate transit and highway projects. Measure R is due to expire in mid-2039; an extension could allow Metro to bond against future revenues to build projects quicker.

Below is the news release from Assemblyman Feuer:


AB 1446 Authorizes L.A. County Metro to Seek Voter Approval for Extension
Of Existing Measure R Sales Tax for Infrastructure Projects

May 21, 2012 (Sacramento) – The California State Assembly has approved AB 1446 by Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) on a bipartisan vote.  The measure would, with voter approval, fund Los Angeles County rail, highway, bus and local transportation improvement projects more quickly, jumpstarting those projects and getting Angelenos back to work.

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Metro staff issues report on Measure R extension and recommends to Board adopting Measure R principles

As many of you know, there have been discussions underway to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax past its expiration date of July 1, 2039, to accelerate transit and highway projects that are funded in part by Measure R.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa proposed such an extension in his State of the City speech last month. But the Metro Board of Directors hasn’t taken any action yet; their approval plus state legislation is needed to send the issue to Los Angeles County voters.

With a big election approaching in November, Metro staff have issued the following report on Measure R and are asking the Board to adopt a set of principles that, in essence, amounts to an agreement that Measure R should be extended. Staff are not asking the Board this month to decide whether to put the issue on the ballot. That is expected to happen in June.

The report discusses the financing options that a Measure R extension would make possible. The gist of it: a Measure R extension plus an expanded federal loan program known as TIFIA would make it possible to build the 12 Measure R transit projects in the next decade or so — instead of waiting until 2039. TIFIA loans could also add $3.7 billion in funding to the Measure R highway program, which is needed because many of the projects are only partially funded by Measure R.

The full staff report is below and here is the pdf version of the report. The staff report is scheduled to be discussed by the Board’s Executive Management committee on Thursday at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters. If you can’t attend, the meeting can be heard over the phone by calling 213-922-6045.

Measure R staff report

Metro to hold budget workshop and public hearing on May 16

Proposed Fiscal Year 2013 Budget

Here’s the news release from Metro — the most newsworthy item, I think, is that the $4.5-billion budget does not propose raising fares for the 2013 fiscal year:

Metro will conduct a budget workshop and public hearing on a proposed $4.5 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2013 on Wednesday, May 16, at 2:30 p.m. in the third floor Board room at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Cesar Chavez & Vignes, next to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The budget can be viewed online by clicking here. The public can view a copy of the balanced budget proposal at Metro.net. Request copies via e-mail at rmc@metro.net or by calling Charlene Williams in Metro Records Services at 213.922.2342.

Metro’s Board could consider adopting the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012 at the board meeting that starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 24, at Metro headquarters.

Metro CEO Art Leahy’s budget proposal, which is balanced with no shortfall, does not propose raising fares, which already rank among the lowest in the nation. Metro’s farebox recovery will stay at 28 percent, again near the bottom of any major operator, and passenger loads also will be low compared to our peers.

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Airtalk with Larry Mantle discusses Westside Subway Extension's Century City station

The KPCC show this morning is well worth a listen and is timely: the Metro Board of Directors tomorrow is scheduled to consider the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the project.

Guests include Beverly Hills Councilman Barry Brucker and County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky, who explains why Metro staff recommended a station to be located in the center of Century City. The reasons: public safety and better ridership.

Gold Line Construction Authority green-lights full construction activities on Foothill Extension

Work progresses on the Foothill Extension's I-210 Freeway bridge. Photo via Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

The latest news from the Gold Line Construction Authority is that the authority has issued a “full notice to proceed” to contractor Kiewit Parsons Joint Venture, thus keeping the line on track for completing construction in the second half of 2015 and then handing the project over to Metro, which will operate the line.

Click for a larger map.

The Gold Line Foothill Extension will, as the name implies, extend the Gold Line for 11.5 miles from the Sierra Madre Villa station in eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border (interactive map here). The Measure R-funded project will include new stations in Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and two in Azusa.

Work on the new rail bridge that will carry the tracks over the eastbound 210 freeway began last year and has progressed quickly. Work on the rest of the line, until now, has been limited to working on design and pre-construction activities while the Construction Authority worked to clear two hurdles: obtain 50 percent of the land needed for a maintenance yard and wait for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to turn over its rail right-of-way west of Irwindale. Major construction is now expected to begin in the fall 2012.

The full press release is after the jump.

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