Century Boulevard Bridge to be demolished July 25-28, 2014

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Here’s a traffic and construction alert that is still a little down the road. But it’s important, especially for those trying to reach LAX: the old rail bridge over Century Boulevard has to be demolished to make way for the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century station.

The demolition will close Century Boulevard at the intersection of Aviation Boulevard from Friday night, July 25, through Monday morning, July 28.

A detour map and alternative routes will be posted as they become available. We wanted to provide ample warning for those who already know they need to travel to or from the LAX terminals that weekend.

The company in charge of the demolition project will be Penhall, the same company that demolished the Mulholland Bridge during the Carmaggedon closures on the 405 freeway in 2011 and 2012.

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project is a light-rail line that will run between the Expo and Green Lines. The $2.058-billion Measure R transit project will serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Inglewood, Westchester and the LAX area with eight new stations, a maintenance facility and park and ride lots.

For more information on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project visit metro.net/crenshaw or by email to crenshawcorridor@metro.net, by phone at (213) 922.2736 or follow the project at facebook.com/crenshawrail or twitter.com/crenshawrail.

Video from the Purple Line funding event in Washington last month

Better late than never! Above is a condensed version of the many, many speakers at the Washington D.C. event on May 21 where Metro and the Federal Transit Administration finalized a deal for $2.1 billion in a federal grant and federally-backed TIFIA loan to help pay for the construction of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension.

RELATED:

New Purple Line Extension provides construction timeline and other key info

 

More details and renderings on the evolving Union Station Master Plan

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A rendering of the Union Station property in the future after the Master Plan is implemented. Click above to see larger.

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This rendering shows the new concourse and bus plaza, which would move from the eastern to western side of the station. Click above to see larger.

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Near-term plans involve replacing the parking lot at the front of Union Station with a civic plaza and streetscape improvements along both sides of Alameda Street.

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Far-term plans could include expanding the civic plaza, opening up access to the site along the corner of Cesar Chavez and Alameda and closing part of Los Angeles Street. Click above to see larger.

Progress continues on finalizing the Union Station Master Plan. As you may recall, the Metro Board of Directors last fall approved a basic concept for the station that included a greatly expanded concourse to run under the existing train platforms and both relocating and consolidating the bus plaza to the west side of the current tunnel under the tracks.

Metro provided a media briefing for reporters Monday afternoon that included much of the information that will be provided to the public at a community workshop this Thursday, June 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Union Station Board Room. No RSVP is necessary for those who wish to attend. 

First, some basic background: in 2011 Metro purchased the Union Station property, including about 47 acres of land from Catellus, the private firm that owned the facility. With nearly 70,000 people currently using the station on the average weekday — a number expected to grow to 100,000 by 2020 and to 140,000 by 2040 — Metro has been working on a master plan to improve how the station functions as a transit facility. The Master Plan would also expand green space at the station, accommodate potential development that would work alongside a bus and train station, preserve its historic architectural character and make Union Station more of a destination for everyone in our region.

Here are some of the refinements to the Master Plan:

•The new passenger concourse will greatly expand the existing passageway. The concourse will be significantly wider than the existing (and often crowded) pedestrian tunnel and there will be elevators and stairs accessing each of the rail platforms above. Those rail platforms will be spaced out differently and widened from their existing 23 feet to around 30 feet. The location of the current entrance to the Red/Purple Line will remain the same.

Here are three renderings of the new concourse.

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•Metro also plans to eliminate a long-standing bottleneck in a project separate from the Union Station Master Plan but moving forward in coordination with the plan. At present, Union Station is a dead end for Metrolink and Amtrak trains — all trains must enter and exit via tracks on the north side of the facility. Metro’s SCRIP project — now in its environmental and engineering phase — would allow trains to enter and exit the station via its south side by running four tracks over the 101 freeway and connecting to the existing tracks along the Los Angeles River.

The tracks would improve train capacity at Union Station by 40 to 50 percent, according to Metro. The project also gives Metro the chance to make improvements to the rail yard and concourse below.

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June Metro Service Council meetings kick off Wednesday in the San Fernando Valley

As usual, the San Fernando Valley Service Council will be batting lead off in our monthly line-up of Service Council meetings, on Wednesday, June 4, in Van Nuys at the Marvin Braude Center.

All June Service Council meetings will include a report from Metro Service Council Director Jon Hillmer, providing monthly and year-to-date statistics on ridership, performance and other measures of Metro service. June is also the month that each of the Councils will elect their Chair and Vice Chair for the upcoming year.

Other topics for Service Council meetings this month include:

San Fernando Valley (6:30 pm, Wednesday, 6/4) – Chair’s remarks to include recap of Division 15 AM Rollout and tour; Recognition of Operator Rafael Melgar; a staff report on the Motion to Reduce and Reallocate Line 166 Service; Approval of August Public Hearing dates for potential December service changes

San Gabriel Valley (5 pm, Monday, 6/9) – Update on Line 577 Rio Hondo Route Change Effect on Ridership; Recap of Board-Approved Transit Fare Restructuring and Follow up Actions

Westside/Central (5 pm, Wednesday, 6/11) – Update on the Wilshire Express Lanes; Approval of August Public Hearing dates for potential December service changes

Gateway Cities (2 pm, Thursday, 6/12) – Recognition of Gateway Cities Service Council Chair Marisa Perez and Member Cheri Kelley; Update on Line 577 Rio Hondo Route Change Effect on Ridership; Update on Blue Line Rail Replacement

South Bay (9:30 am, Friday, 6/13) – Update on Redondo Beach Station Refurbishment; Update on Crenshaw/LAX Green Line Rail Interface

Please note that changes may be made to meeting agendas, including potential new topics, prior to meeting dates. For a listing of the dates, times and locations of all five Service Council meetings, click here. For more information about each service council, click on the name of the service council listed above. To view the latest Service Council meeting agendas check the agenda listings web page at metro.net.

All Service Councils welcome and encourage public participation. If you would like to comment at any of the meetings, please fill out a speaker card when you arrive, noting the specific item you are there to address. General comments on issues that aren’t on the agenda are taken as a part of the “public comment” section of the agenda. If you would like to provide input to a Council but cannot attend a meeting, you can submit your comments in writing through the Service Council web page or send them to servicecouncils@metro.net. If your comments are for a specific council, please make sure to indicate which one you are addressing.

 

Caltrans reopens reconstructed Shoemaker Avenue bridge

Photos: Juan Ocampo/Metro

Metro Deputy CEO Lindy Lee joined Caltrans this morning for a milestone ribbon cutting ceremony for the Shoemaker Avenue Bridge project. It is one of three bridges associated with the $180 million I-5 South HOV Widening/Rosecrans/Bloomfield Bridges widening project.  Shoemaker Ave. bridge is the first completely reconstructed bridge to open to the public. Metro was a significant funding partner, programming $40.4 million from Proposition C towards the total project cost.

The newly reconstructed bridge serves as a vital artery for local commuters in the cities of Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs. It is also a major thoroughfare for school buses from the La Mirada-Norwalk School District.

Keep reading after the jump for the full press release from Caltrans.

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405-Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project: it’s more than adding the HOV lane

As most of your know, the new northbound HOV lane on the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 is opening Friday. There will finally be an HOV on the north side of the freeway to match the one on the southbound side that was completed in 2002.

Obviously traffic due to construction over the past four-and-a-half years has not been a treat. The good news: the key project work is finally open and available for Memorial Day weekend travelers and regular commuters.

The work involved has been considerable since the project got underway in 2009. The work also extends far beyond adding the HOV lane. Three bridges over the 405 have been rebuilt to seismic standards and widened. And many ramps on the 405 between the 10 and 101 have been lengthened, widened and in some cases moved to better locations.

Some interesting stats, according to Metro: Enough concrete was used on the project to build four Staple Centers, enough dirt was moved to fill 100,000 dump trucks and enough rebar installed to build 15,000 Volkswagen beetles.

I know there are people reading this who will argue that it’s pointless to improve freeways because they will inevitably fill with traffic. That’s a point well taken.

On the other hand, there’s a pretty good counter-argument to be made. The first is that the 405 has not been substantially improved since it was built across the Sepulveda Pass in 1963 — when L.A. County only had six million or so residents. The county today has more than 10 million people, not to mention the growth in surrounding areas. Look at Orange County, which is traversed by the 405. In 1960, it had about 700,000 residents. It has about 3.1 million people today, according to the Census Bureau.

The status quo on the 405 prior to work beginning in 2009 was certainly not good and logic dictates that traffic conditions would just keep getting worse in coming years as the region’s population grows. Metro and Caltrans say that project capacity improvements will help meet future traffic demands in our region.

Let’s run through some of the improvements:

•Prior to the work, there was an HOV on the southbound side of the 405 between the 10 and the 101. But the northbound side didn’t have an HOV lane due to lack of funding. There will now be HOV lanes on the 405 for 36 miles in both directions between the Orange County line and the northern San Fernando Valley, where the 405 merges into the Golden State Freeway.

Metro is also studying a new express bus that would run between Westwood and the northern San Fernando Valley using the HOV lane on the 405.

Measure R also provides $1 billion in seed money for a separate transit project that would span the Sepulveda Pass. Initial studies are underway and among the alternatives being evaluated is a transit tunnel under the pass, perhaps to be accompanied by a tolled tunnel for motor traffic.

•The on- and off-ramps at Wilshire Boulevard were rebuilt with flyover ramps to eliminate bottlenecks from cars exiting the 405 mixing with cars trying to enter. The ramps were also expanded to hold more vehicles. For example, the ramp from eastbound Wilshire to the northbound 405 is 3,129-feet long — 500 feet longer than the ramp it replaced — and has 280 percent more capacity. The southbound off-ramp from the 405 to eastbound Wilshire now has 134 percent more capacity.

•The new Sunset Boulevard Bridge is higher, longer and significantly wider at 120 feet — approximately 30 feet wider than before the project. It features two additional traffic lanes and higher capacity on- and off-ramps to improve area traffic flows and reduce congestion on local streets. Motorists will now enjoy dedicated turn lanes to access freeway ramps, and motorists traveling east/west through the bridge will be able to do so more quickly.

•The new Mulholland Bridge is 10 feet wider than the one it replaced and built to modern seismic standards. A new sidewalk was added on the south side of the bridge.

•The ramp from the westbound 10 to the northbound 405 was widened and other improvements were made to ramps at the extremely busy 10-405 junction.

•The 405 on- and off-ramps that serve Skirball Center Drive were demolished and rebuilt 2,000 feet south of their former location. This should help ease the traffic crunch at the intersection of Skirball Center Drive and Mulholland and make it easier to exit and enter the freeway. The new ramps also hold more than 200 additional vehicles.

•Among other improvements: new turn lanes for those entering the 405 from Sepulveda Boulevard, new sidewalks, curbs and gutters along Sepulveda Boulevard, new bike lanes for parts of Sepulveda Boulevard, an addition of 1,200 feet to the off-ramp to Cotner, the street that motorists use to access Santa Monica Boulevard (the ramp is now 2,300 feet long).

Metro Board votes to raise most fares in September but postpones further increases in 2017 and 2020

The Metro Board of Directors voted Thursday to raise Metro bus and train fares no earlier than September 1 but declined to impose the agency’s staff recommendation for additional increases in 2017 and 2020. The Board also decided to freeze fares for students.

Under the new fares, the regular fare will rise from $1.50 to $1.75. The cost of a day pass will increase from $5 to $7, the weekly pass from $20 to $25, the 30-day pass from $75 to $100 and the EZ Pass from $84 to $110.

However, the new fares will include free transfers for two hours for those using TAP cards. This is unlike the current base fare which is only good for a single ride on a bus or train, no matter the length of that ride. For example, a rider who currently rides two buses to reach their destination and pays $3 (the cost of two $1.50 fares) would only pay $1.75 under the new fares as long as the second bus ride begins within two hours.

Metro CEO Art Leahy, who began his job in 2009, and many experts outside the agency have said that encouraging transfers is a far wiser and efficient way to run a transit agency, given that about half of Metro’s riders must transfer to complete their trips. The Metro Board voted to drop transfers in 2007 as a way to reduce fraud and raise revenues.

On Sept. 1, the senior/disabled regular peak-hour fare is scheduled to rise from 55 cents to 75 cents, with the non-peak senior/disabled fare rising from 25 cents to 35 cents. (However, the Board will again consider senior/disabled fares at the June meeting.) The day pass will change from $1.80 to $2.50, the 30-day pass from $14 to $20 and the EZ Pass from $35 to $42.

This is the fourth fare increase since 1993, when Metro began operating as a new agency. The last fare increase was in 2010 when the regular single-ride fare was increased from $1.25 to $1.50. Fares for seniors, disabled riders and students have not changed since 2007; the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 froze those fares through mid-2013 and they remain at 2007 levels.

There were two key votes on Thursday.

First, the Board voted 12 to 0 with one abstention (by Board Member Gloria Molina) for a motion by Board Members Mark Ridley-Thomas, Eric Garcetti and Zev Yaroslavsky to postpone the 2017 and 2020 round of fare increases pending further analysis that also asks Metro to identify potential revenues that could offset the need for any more fare hikes.

In the second vote, the Board voted 12 to 1 to accept Metro’s staff proposal for fare increases for 2014. The vote against came from Gloria Molina.

Metro staff have said that fare increases were necessary to keep pace with rising operating costs and to avoid a budget deficit of $36.8 million beginning in 2016 and potentially rising to more than $200 million within a decade because of inflation and the increase cost of operating a transit system with more than 2,000 buses, 87 miles of rail (and many more miles on the way), van pools and other services.

Staff also have repeatedly pointed to two statistics: the average Metro fare — when discounts are factored in — is only 70 cents. And each fare only covers 26 percent of the cost of providing service. Metro officials say that they want that number to reach 33 percent to better cover expenses and to ensure that the agency continues to receive needed federal grants.

Metro currently has three rail lines under construction. Both the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension are scheduled to open in early 2016 while the Crenshaw/LAX Line is forecast to open in 2019. Two other rail lines — the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension of the subway — will soon begin construction and are forecast to open in 2019 and 2023, respectively.

Discussion among members of the Metro Board revealed that many were highly uncomfortable with raising fares given the $16,250 median household income of the agency’s bus riders and $20,770 for rail riders. 

Board Member Eric Garcetti expressed disappointment that many low-income riders do not get discounted fares for low-income riders even though they qualify.

Gloria Molina offered the most pointed criticism of Metro, as she has in the past. Molina said that Metro has far more low-income riders than in other metro areas with vast transit systems. She criticized the agency’s efforts to reduce its subsidies for riders, saying it’s inappropriate in a region with so many low-income riders, many of which are making the minimum wage or less.

Instead, Molina offered a motion asking the agency to trim its operating budget by 1.5 percent, which she said would prevent the need for fare increases. That motion failed to secure a second from other Board Members. However, it was folded into the Ridley-Thomas-Garcetti-Yaroslavsky motion a request for Metro staff to determine what cutting 1.5 percent of the budget would entail and if it could be used to defer any fare increase.

And she said that Metro is not running a bus system effective enough to attract a diverse ridership that would raise more revenues. “You can’t ghettoize our buses,” Molina said.

The Board heard nearly two hours of public testimony before casting their votes. The prevailing sentiment from speakers — many from the Bus Riders Union — ran against raising fares.

One key factor in the fare discussions is a potential ballot measure that Metro is considering taking to Los Angeles County voters in 2016. Such a ballot measure — if approved, which is no easy task — could potentially raise more money for operating buses and trains, which the Ridley-Thomas-Garcetti-Yaroslavsky motion cites as funds that could possibly be used stave off the need for more fare increases.

On the other hand, the same ballot measure could also fund the acceleration and/or construction of more Metro transit projects, which in turn would raise operation costs. And a fare increase in close proximity to a potential ballot measure requiring two-thirds voter approval (under current law) could also be politically tricky.