Congress votes again to extend federal transportation bill

Below is the update from Metro’s government relations staff. This is the ninth extension of the previous multi-year federal transportation bill, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2005 and expired originally in 2009. The update:

A few moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a 90-day extension of the current Surface Transportation Authorization (H.R. 4281) on a 266 to 158 vote. H.R. 4281 will now be sent over to the U.S. Senate. This extension, though free of policy changes, was looked unfavorably upon by the U.S. Senate, which called on the House to pass their Surface Transportation Re-authorization Bill (MAP-21) that passed the Senate earlier in March. The current extension, and accompanying gas taxes, expires on Sunday, April 1, 2012.

The two-year bipartisan bill approved by the Senate — known as MAP-21 — includes provisions of Metro’s America Fast Forward plan to expand a federal loan program for major transportation projects. Whether House Republicans will ever consider the bill remains to be seen.


UPDATE, 2:45 p.m.: The Senate has agreed to the extension. Update from Metro government relations:

The U.S. Senate has passed the 90-day surface transportation authorization extension by unanimous consent. The extension, as passed by the House hours ago, will now move to the President’s desk for his signature. This new extension (the ninth such extension since SAFETEA-LU originally expired on September 30, 2009) will expire on June 30, 2012.

Our agency will continue to closely monitor the surface transportation bills in both the House and Senate.

House Democrats seek vote on Senate Transportation Bill

Earlier today, local officials also called on the House to vote on the bill, which contains elements of Metro’s America Fast Forward program to provide federal loans for large transit project. Here’s the update from Metro’s government relations staff:

Over 80 Democrats are urging Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to bring to the House floor surface transportation legislation similar to the Moving Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) bill that was adopted last week by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 74 to 22.

The House version of the bill (H.R.14) is being advanced to highlight the continued failure of the U.S House of Representatives to adopt a surface transportation bill that would replace SAFETEA-LU, which expired in September of 2009. Very shortly, the House is expected to consider legislation that would extend, for the ninth time, America’s surface transportation programs for another 90 days.

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On Transportation: March 21 column

The Westwood/VA Station entrance will be just east of Bonsall Avenue. Click to enlarge.

WESTWOOD/VA STATION: For obvious reasons, a lot of attention has been paid to the Westside Subway Extension’s Century City station and the subway alignment in Beverly Hills. There’s no need to belabor those issues here.

But one of the more overlooked stories involving the subway project involves the Westwood/VA Hospital station. In the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report, released Monday, Metro staff recommend placing the station on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, just east of Bonsall Avenue and just west of the 405 freeway.

This is the last station on the line. Why? Measure R and Metro’s long-range plan have funding for the subway to reach Westwood but not beyond. It’s a tough situation because not much farther west, just beyond San Vicente Boulevard, are thousands of residents — many of whom will probably want to use the new train.

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Officials push House of Representatives to (finally) pass a transportation spending bill

Metro officials joined labor and business leaders on Wednesday morning at a rally along the Orange Line Extension in Chatsworth to urge the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a two-year transportation spending bill.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa, Metro Directors Richard Katz and Mel Wilson and Metro CEO Art Leahy all participated.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that includes key elements of Metro’s America Fast Forward plan that would provide federal loans to local transit agencies to build projects.

The Mayor and other speakers noted that America Fast Forward (AFF) enjoys national bipartisan support and that federal low interest loans — combined with local taxes such as Measure R — could accelerate the construction of transit and highway projects to spur the economy and create jobs.

At the same time, taxpayers benefit because we can beat inflation, take advantage of competitive bids in the current market and have projects completed much sooner.

Regional Connector final environmental study scheduled to be considered by Metro Board on Thursday

Metro’s Regional Connector planning staff just sent this email to interested parties:

Regional Connector on Metro Board of Director’s Agenda

The Regional Connector Transit Corridor Study Final EIS/EIR is included as Item #56 on the Metro Board of Director’s March 22, 2012 agenda.  This meeting is scheduled to begin Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at Metro Headquarters. Please follow the link to view the meeting agenda.

Recently, Metro has been invited to meet with representatives from the Financial District and Japanese Village Plaza to evaluate construction methodologies that address stakeholder concerns. This is an important step by the project team to evaluate optimum methods to mitigate impacts specified in the environmental document.

We will advise you if we are notified of any changes to the agenda.

Thank you for your continued interest in Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project.

The Regional Connector Team

I-5 South Corridor braces for second wave of congestion-busting improvements

Officials break ground March 19 to launch the I-5 HOV Widening and Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project, the second of six segments of the I-5 South Corrdior Improvement Projects.

Officials break ground March 19 to launch the I-5 HOV Widening and Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project, the second of six segments of the I-5 South Corrdior Improvement Projects.

Caltrans and Metro announced Monday that construction will begin on the I-5 Widening and Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project, the second segment of the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Project that runs from the Los Angeles/Orange County Line to the I-605. Last fall, Caltrans began the first of six I-5 corridor improvement projects totaling more than $1 billion; some of the funding is coming from Measure R.

The $110-million Alondra Boulevard Bridge project will add one carpool lane and one general purpose lane in each direction from North Fork Coyote Creek to Marquardt Avenue, a distance of nearly a mile. The project also includes reconstructing two bridges at Alondra and North Fork Coyote Creek to accommodate a wider freeway, redesigned ramp structures and realigning Firestone Boulevard and Freeway Drive frontage roads.

The Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project is expected to be completed by mid-2015.

The Alondra Boulevard Bridge spans the 1-5 South Corridor in Santa Fe Springs. An estimated 220,000 vehicles travel this section daily.

The Alondra Boulevard Bridge spans the 1-5 South Corridor in Santa Fe Springs. An estimated 220,000 vehicles travel this section daily.

Highlights from the Westside Subway Extension's final environmental study

The Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the Westside Subway Extension was released this afternoon (news release here, report here). Here are some other highlights about the project from the report:

•As the map above and the chart below demonstrates, one big benefit of the Westside Subway Extension is that it will be near a lot of jobs. There are parts of the Westside nearly as job-rich as the downtown areas of other large cities. Note: the map shows options for the final alignment considered by Metro staff in Century City and Westwood.

•As this earlier post shows, the Subway Extension would speed up transit trips to and from Westwood. It is expected to take about 15 minutes for the subway to travel between the Westwood/VA station and the existing Wilshire/Western subway station.

•After the Metro Board of Directors approves of the FEIS/R and the study gets a “record of decision” from the Federal Transit Administration, the project can enter the final design phase, followed by construction. A groundbreaking in 2013 is possible.

•Two construction schedules are proposed by Metro staff in the FEIS/R. One would have the entire line open to the Westwood/VA station in 2022 — but that would first require an expansion of federal funding by Congress.

•The other construction schedule would follow Metro’s long-range plan and would complete the Westside Subway Extension in three phases — opening to La Cienega in 2020, Century City in 2026 and Westwood in 2036. It is 3.9 miles between the existing Wilshire and Western station and the future La Cienega station.

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