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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Metro Orange Line Extension Construction on YouTube, Jan. 31

There is now a nice tour of the Orange Line Extension construction on YouTube. The clip features Metro CEO Art Leahy, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Metro construction officials touring the project on Tuesday.

The Metro Orange Line Extension is the first Measure R funded project scheduled to open this summer. For more information on the project visit the project website.

Live video stream of tonight's High Desert Corridor meeting at 6:30 p.m.

High Desert Corridor banner

A quick reminder: Metro is hosting a meeting tonight in Victorville to provide the community with a status report on the High Desert Corridor project. The Metro HDC webpage notes that the project “proposes the construction of a new, approximately 63-mile, east-west freeway/expressway linking State Route (SR)-14 in Los Angeles County with SR-18 in San Bernardino County.”

For those who can’t make it to the meeting, but are interested none-the-less, you can view a live video feed of the presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. via this link:

Tonight’s is the second-to-last community meeting in this round, with one more tomorrow night in Adelanto. Here are the details on that one:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 6-8pm
Stater Brothers Stadium,
Mavericks Conference Room
12000 Stadium Way
Adelanto, CA 92301

For more information on the High Desert Corridor Project, you can check out this presentation we posted last week, embedded below, and follow the High Desert Corridor Twitter feed.

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Metro Board adopts Project Labor Agreement to help secure jobs for low-income workers

The Metro Board of Directors today unanimously approved a plan to help increase the number of workers from disadvantaged areas to be hired to work on the agency’s transit and road projects.

The Project Labor Agreement (PLA) between Metro and the Los Angeles/Orange County Building Trades Council is believed by Metro to be the first of its kind for a transit agency in the United States. Under the PLA, 40 percent of work hours on Metro projects would be done by workers who live in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and 10 percent of the hours going to workers struggling with poverty.

Many members of the public testified in favor of the plan, most hewing to a simple message: times are tough, they’re unemployed and they need a job “not just to survive, but to live.”

Supervisor and Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas (in photo above) said after the vote that the rest of the nation now has the chance to follow Metro and create jobs in places where they are most needed by building transportation infrastructure. We “have paved the way in an extraordinary way,” Ridley-Thomas said. “This is a matter of justice and of putting public resources in areas that need them.”

Los Angeles Mayor and Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa voiced similar praised for the PLA, saying he believes the program will help some people “escape the crushing bonds of poverty” and create a path for workers to the middle class.

After the jump are Metro fact sheets on the PLA. And here is an L.A. Times editorial backing the agreement.

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Five things I'm thinking about transportation, Jan. 11 edition

MEASURE R SEQUEL?: I think 2012 got a little more interesting with the news last week that Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill that could allow voters in L.A. County to decide to extend the half-cent Measure R sales tax past its June 30, 2039 expiration date.

The idea is to raise the money needed to accelerate Measure R projects.

Will it happen? I have no idea and I don’t think it’s my place to advocate one way or the other. If the state Legislature signs the bill, it would next be up to the Metro Board of Directors, who will discuss the issue with agency staff at their monthly meeting on Jan. 26.

Having watched Measure R unfold in 2008, my best guess is the Board will want more information about projected revenues from a Measure R extension, a funding plan (i.e. which projects will receive money) and the cost of borrowing against future revenues to build projects now.

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Foothill Extension Construction Authority files objection to court ruling

This involves a lawsuit brought against the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority alleging that the environmental studies for the Pasadena-to-Azusa light rail project didn’t properly study alternative locations for a rail maintenance yard.

The suit was brought by a Monrovia land owner who is objecting to attempts to acquire his land for the rail yard.

Here is the news release issued by the Construction Authority, the independent agency building the line that Metro will operate:

2012-01-04 Construction Authority Files Objection to CEQA Ruling