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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Travel times to Westwood/UCLA using the Westside Subway Extension

 

If anyone really needs a good argument why the Westside Subway Extension should be built, I think this map showing transit travel times to the Westwood/UCLA station from other parts of L.A. County makes a pretty compelling case.

The nine-mile subway extension to Westwood would seriously improve the time it takes to get to and from Westwood from many areas across Los Angeles County. At rush hour, the subway would almost certainly be the quickest way into and out of the Westside.

The map is from the Westside Subway Extension’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report, which was released earlier today. Here’s the news release and here’s the link to the report.

Transit advocacy group discusses Measure R extension

The activist group Move LA held its “L.A. on the Verge’ event at Union Station on Friday, with a big focus on transportation funding.

The group is headed by former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane, who clearly let the hundreds in attendance know his position: the Measure R sales tax increase that expires in 2039 should be extended by voters.

Such an extension could accomplish two things, according to Zane: 1) It could help accelerate the building of the 12 Measure R transit projects if Congress doesn’t fully adopt the America Fast Forward plan (and they’re not likely to), and; 2) It may help finance additional transit and highway projects beyond the original Measure R package approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

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Regional Connector team talks EIR with community at Little Tokyo open house

More slides from last night's presentation are below.


The Metro Regional Connector team held an open house last night in Little Tokyo to discuss the crucial Measure R project now that it has reached an important milestone: the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report (which you can find in its entirety here).

As regular readers will recall, the Regional Connector is a proposed 1.9-mile underground light-rail line in downtown Los Angeles that will connect the Expo and Blue Lines to the Gold Line. The Connector will allow one-seat transfer-free rides from Pasadena to Long Beach and Santa Monica to East L.A.

Three new subway stations — at Bunker Hill, Broadway and Little Tokyo/Arts District — will also make it considerably easier to travel between the north-south and east-west lines that will be formed by the Connector. Many riders will see their trips through the system shortened by as much as 30 percent as a result, the reason the line has “Regional” in its title. It will benefit many commuters across L.A. County. (Here’s a post from last month explaining many of the project benefits).

Project Manager Dolores Roybal Saltarelli noted during a presentation that the “locally preferred” alignment recommended by Metro staff grew out of discussions with the community over the last few years. In particular, Metro planners, the city of Los Angeles and downtown community members honed in on the fully-underground alternative in response to strong local support.

Looking ahead, this spring is chock full of important dates for the project. The Metro Board of Directors Planning and Programming Committee will review the FEIS/R next Wednesday, Feb. 15, and the full Board of Directors will then vote on whether to certify the FEIS/R and approve a package of mitigation measures — various procedures for reducing the impacts of construction — at its monthly meeting on February 23rd in March [post updated Feb. 22, 2012].

If the Board approves the FEIS/R, Metro staff will then work with the Federal Transit Administration to obtain a “record of decision,” which would allow Metro to proceed with relocating underground utility lines and acquiring the property it will need to stage construction activities. Following that, Metro will apply for a “full funding agreement” from the FTA — a commitment of ongoing financial support for the project from the federal New Starts program that helps fund large transit projects.

If all goes smoothly, the Regional Connector team should finish preliminary engineering and begin final design in the fall, which would allow construction on the line to begin in 2013. The line is scheduled to open in 2019.

The presentation and poster board displays from last night are embedded below:

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