I wanted to provide a quick update on one of the many road projects involving Metro: improvements proposed for the 710 corridor between Long Beach and the 60 freeway.
In 2008, Metro launched an environmental study on how to improve this part of I-710. As many battle-tested motorists already know, that segment of the freeway is often very congested.
The main problem is that the freeway is just three lanes wide between Long Beach and the 405 freeway and four lanes wide between the 405 and 60. In addition, the freeway is often clogged with both commuters and truck traffic that is traveling to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Among the alternatives being studied for the project is widening the freeway to 10 lanes (five lanes in each direction); adding four elevated truck-only lanes adjacent to the 710 (two lanes in each direction); restricting the truck-only lanes to be used by trucks with zero tailpipe emissions; and possibly tolling the truck-only lanes.
That’s obviously quite a road widening and one of the few still possible in the region, where freeways are often hemmed in by development. In the case of the 710 south, such a project is possible because of the utility corridor that exists between the 710 and the Los Angeles River.
This is not just a project about improving traffic, Metro officials say. Neighborhoods near the ports and the 710 freeway have long pointed to studies that show very bad local air pollution in the corridor from vehicles, trains and ships. The air is so bad that it likely leads to premature deaths in the region.
Here’s a link to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web page on air pollution from diesel emissions in the freight corridor north of the ports. Continue reading
The Board of Directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) voted today that a 65-mile stretch of track between Madera and Corcoran in the San Joaquin Valley will be the first to be built for the state’s bullet train project. That stretch also includes Fresno.
The vote was hardly a surprise. The staff of the CHSRA had recommended that segment be built first and the federal government had said that all funds it has provided to the government thus far must be used to construct track in the San Joaquin Valley.
Here’s a link to the press release with more details from the CHSRA. The goal of the agency is to first build an Anaheim-to-San Francisco segment before expanding the system to include Sacramento and San Diego.
The Federal Transit Administration on Thursday gave approval to Metro to remove a nearly one-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from the Wilshire bus lane project without jeopardizing a federal grant for the project.
The decision whether to keep a bus lane on that part of Wilshire — between Comstock and Selby avenues in Westwood — will be up to the Metro Board of Directors. They are scheduled to take up the issue at their Dec. 9 meeting when the Board also must approve the project’s final environmental impact report.
Most of the 8.7 miles of rush hour bus lanes on Wilshire will be in the parking lane. But in this stretch of Wilshire, Metro staff recommended keeping the parking lane and the curbside jut-outs that have trees and grass. As a result, the bus lane was to go in the righthand general traffic lane — of which there are three in both directions in this part of Wilshire.
Residents complained that would make it difficult to exit and enter driveways to their buildings and could also pose a safety problem while backing up traffic on Wilshire. The Board of Directors’ planning committee agreed and asked Metro staff if eliminating the bus lane in this stretch of Wilshire would threaten a $23-million grant for the project from the FTA, which is about three-fourths of the bus lanes’ $31.5-million cost.
Here’s the letter that Metro sent to the FTA.
As we reported recently, the Board of Directors’ planning committee recently asked whether a nearly one-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood should be removed from the rush hour bus lane project being planned along Wilshire.
The concern is that the bus lane in that stretch between Selby and Comstock avenues would not be the parking lane — as is the case elsewhere. Instead, it would be one of the three general purpose traffic lanes and that has led residents of the area to fear that the bus lane will badly impact traffic and make entering and exiting driveways and garages difficult and potentially unsafe.
The full Board of Directors could make a decision on Dec. 9 on whether to include that stretch in the bus lane project. But one big question looms: would removing that area from the project jeopardize the $23 million in funding that the Federal Transit Administration has said it will provide?
Here’s what Metro CEO Art Leahy wrote in his daily email to staff:
FTA Requested to Approve Removal of Wilshire BRT Segment Near Westwood
The Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (EIR/EA) was presented to the Planning and Programming Committee on November 17th. The Committee expressed its overall support for the project, but directed staff to seek Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approval to remove a one-mile segment east of Westwood to address community concerns. The project is funded from a federal Very Small Starts grant, and FTA is being asked to approve this change to the project. Attached is the letter that was sent to FTA. We have requested FTA to respond before the December 9th Board meeting where the Wilshire BRT EIR/EA is scheduled for Board action.
It should be an interesting discussion on the 9th, whichever answer is provided by the FTA. The project in its current form is expected to cost $31.5 million and it’s far from clear that the project would be possible without that money. On the other hand, Metro is offering to reduce the overall cost of the project and the FTA’s contribution if the Comstock-to-Selby stretch is not included.
Metro issued a news release on Monday about the upcoming bus service cuts and changes going into effect on Sunday, Dec. 12. Here’s the release:
Effective Sunday, December 12, Metro is making bus service changes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Metro system through better use of resources.
Four local lines are set to be discontinued and five Metro Rapid lines will be cancelled with service realocated to limited and local service operating along those corridors. In addition some Saturday and Sunday service will be cancelled with some of the service being augmented by local service on the weekends.
The bus service changes are being made to reduce unproductive service, reduce duplication of service along key travel corridors and to rightsize the Metro Rapid Corridor service. Metro staff looked at several Metro Rapid corridors where the average passengers trip length on the service were not much longer or faster than the local service currently being provided. For these specific corridors, Metro Rapid service (Lines 711, 714, 715, 753 & 920) will be discontinued and replaced with additional trips on the Local/Limited service (Lines 311, 14, 115, 53 & 720) as warranted to meet demand. Continue reading
Below is the press release issued Wednesday from the commuter rail agency. Metrolink’s Board of Directors approved a $120-million contract to install positive train control systems along its 512-mile rail system in October. Metro, on behalf of Los Angeles County, is one of the five county transit agencies in So Cal that funds Metrolink.
Metrolink Receives $6.6 Million Federal Grant for Positive Train Control
Los Angeles – On Fri., Nov. 19, United States Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood announced that Metrolink received a $6.6 million Federal Railroad Administration grant to help fund Positive Train Control (PTC) collision avoidance systems. The project will receive money through the new Railroad Safety Technology Grant program.
PTC systems use Global Positioning System technology to monitor and control a train’s movements, in order to enforce speed limits, prevent train collisions and help keep railroad workers and passengers safe. Continue reading
Here’s the press release below from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, saying that agency staff is recommending that the initial 65-mile segment of tracks be built between Madera and Corcoran in the San Joaquin Valley, with a completion date of 2017. The segment of track would be part of the Anaheim to San Francisco line that is scheduled to be built before the line is extended south to San Diego.
The press release doesn’t say anything about the purchase of rail cars or when the tracks would actually come into use:
STARTING POINT FOR STATEWIDE CONSTRUCTION RECOMMENDED
Authority staff have recommended a starting point for construction on a critical portion of track in the heart of the Central Valley, which the Board will review along with three other options, at its December 2, 2010, meeting.
About the recommendation:
* Spanning about 65 miles, the recommended segment would start near Madera, include the construction of two new stations – one in downtown Fresno and the other east of Hanford – and continue south to Corcoran.
* Estimates place the cost of the proposed section at $4.15 billion, which leaves enough money to – if necessary – connect these tracks with existing rail lines as per a federal “independent utility” requirement.
* The cost of the project accounts for two new stations, right-of-way acquisition, viaduct construction, site preparation, grading, vegetation restoration, rail bridge construction, roadway realignments, relocation of existing railways and utilities. The final track would be ready in 2017. Continue reading
Two Metro staff reports have been dispatched to the Metro Board of Directors about the TAP program. Taken together, they include some interesting nuggets about the expansion of the electronic fare cards.
The first report is an update on Metro’s TAP system. Among the highlights:
•Expect to see a ramp up soon of promotional materials for the Visa debit cards that also serve as TAP cards.
•Five stations now have gates that will light up when someone fails to TAP. Among those are the Hollywood/Highland and North Hollywood Red Line stations.
•There are now about 100 cell phone devices — called fare validators — in the field with sheriff’s deputies that can be used to ensure that someone who said they tapped their TAP card actually did.
•A pilot program is scheduled to begin in December to sell TAP cards at a limited number of ticket vending machines at Metro Rail stations.
The second report looks at a broader issue, the regional fare system and some of the technological hurdles involved in getting all of L.A.’s transit agencies to use TAP.
The big highlight of this report is that it says that plans are for Metro to begin using stored value on TAP cars in the second quarter of next year. Stored value would allow customers to — as the name implies — put an amount of their choosing on a TAP card and then have fares deducted from that amount. It would be very convenient for those who don’t buy passes, but want the convenience of having a TAP card.
A motion that would allow students with public and private schools to use Metro for free to go on field trips during non-peak hours was approved today by Metro Board of Directors’ executive management and audit committee. The motion is by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a member of the Metro Board.
The idea is to allow students to use excess capacity on Metro during non-rush hours. The mayor’s motion says that it would not cost Metro any additional funds nor deprive the agency of any revenues since it’s not an extra service — just filling otherwise empty seats.
The motion will be considered by the full Board of Directors at their Dec. 9 meeting. If it’s approved, Metro CEO Art Leahy will be directed to come up with a plan for providing the service that would likely involve schools having to make a reservation ahead of time so that Metro buses and trains aren’t overwhelmed.
The press release from Villaraigosa’s office is after the jump. Continue reading
A map of the Wilshire bus lane project recommended by Metro's planning staff. Click above to see a larger image.
The Metro Board of Director’s planning committee discussed the Wilshire bus lane project on Wednesday and moved the project’s environmental study and staff recommendations to the full Board. The committee declined to makes its own recommendation for or against the project — a common scenario in committee discussions.
The Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project proposes to install 8.7 miles of rush hour bus lanes in the curb lane of Wilshire Boulevard — mostly in the city of Los Angeles — between the Santa Monica-Los Angeles border and just west of downtown L.A. Metro staff have said the lanes will shave 12 to 17 minutes off bus trips along Wilshire.
The focus of Wednesday’s discussion was a mile-long stretch of Wilshire between Comstock and Selby avenues in Westwood (here’s a Google map). In that high-rise residential area, residents have objected to the project as it was originally proposed — which would have eliminated the parking lane in that area during peak traffic hours. In response, Metro staff have recommended keeping the parking lane intact and putting the bus lane in the righthand of three general traffic lanes in each direction.
Residents in that area are also saying the bus lane isn’t needed in this stretch of Wilshire and will mess up traffic. Metro staff have said the bus lane is needed there to help speed up bus trips on the length of the corridor. Continue reading