City of Santa Clarita holds ribbon cutting for Sand Canyon/SR-14 Beautification Project

The City of Santa Clarita held a ribbon cutting earlier this morning for the newly completed Sand Canyon Road/SR-14 Beautification Project. The project included improvements to 3.4 acres with environmentally-friendly landscaping and a water efficient irrigation system.

Officials said that beautification of freeway entry points helps maintain property values and supports the city’s and other business organizations’ efforts to attract targeted companies to the area.

Metro provided $1.352 million for the project through the agency’s Call for Projects.

Crenshaw/LAX Integrated Project Management Office to hold open house

Crenshaw/LAX Open House Invitation

Here’s the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of Metro Board of Directors and a few items of interest on fare gating, station renaming and park-n-ride lots

The Metro Board of Directors meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursday for its regular monthly meeting. The agenda is above or you can download the pdf here. A few items of general interest on the agenda:

•Metro staff are considering establishing a budget to add fare gates to four street-level stations for the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the 4th Street station in downtown Santa Monica for the second phase of the Expo Line. In a separate motion, the Board is considering to launch further engineering and cost analysis of adding fare gates to stations across the Metro Rail system. 

•There are a couple of station renamings on the docket. The Board is considering a motion to rename the Blue Line’s Grand Station to Grand/L.A. Trade Tech and the Expo Line’s 23rd Street Station to 23rd St/L.A. Trade Tech. The Board is also consider a motion to rename the Exposition/La Brea station to the Exposition/La Brea Ethel Bradley Station.

A motion asking Metro to implement an online database of previous Board of Director actions. At present, searching for motions and past actions is a crapshoot. The motion also asks for linking audio from Board meetings to reports — something that would, I suspect, be very useful to anyone who cares or is interested in actions taken by the Board.

A motion asking the Board to oppose AB 1941, which would add two members to the Metro Board to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Rules Committee, respectively. I included some background and thoughts on this legislation in a recent headlines — see the last item in this post.
A motion asking Caltrans to report on difficulties that have emerged in the transfer of park-n-ride lots at Metro Rail stations from Caltrans to Metro. The motion begins: “Item No. 18 and Director Najarian’s accompanying Motion underscore the importance of Metro’s increasingly complex relationship with Caltrans.” If I am reading the remainder of the motion correctly, I think “complex” is a perhaps one way of saying “difficult,” at least on this issue.

•A motion to improve lighting and pedestrian access to/from the Universal City over-flow parking lot for the Red Line station.

Metrolink puts anti-collision technology into service

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A train equipped with PTC technology leaves Union Station on Thursday afternoon bound for Orange County. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A Metrolink media event just wrapped at Union Station to announce that Positive Train Control — a technology used to prevent trains colliding — will start being used on some of the commuter’s railroad trains in Southern California.

Here is the news release from Metrolink:

LOS ANGELES – Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff today joined other dignitaries at Los Angeles Union Station as Metrolink launched Positive Train Control (PTC) in revenue service demonstration (RSD) under the authority of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. Other dignitaries in attendance included California State Transportation Agency Deputy Secretary Chad Edison, California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, Metrolink Board Chair Pat Morris and former Metrolink Board Chair Richard Katz, along with representatives from the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) and the BNSF.

“I have spent my entire life around the rail, but this is unequivocally the most instrumental piece of technology ever implemented for train safety,” said Morris, who worked his way through Stanford Law School at the ATSF Railway. “PTC will undoubtedly make Metrolink the safest commuter rail system in the country; the invaluable partnership between Metrolink and the BNSF has made today a reality.”

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Video from this morning’s Regional Connector event

Here’s our original post along with the Metro news release.

And here’s the FTA’s news release.

And the non-government view of things? Here’s the L.A. Times article.

And here’s the FTA news release on the funding agreements for the Regional Connector

Public officials with a rendering of the Full-Funding Grant Agreement for the Regional Connector. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

From left: Former Metro Board Member Richard Katz, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board Member Pam O’Connor, L.A. Councilmember and Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian, Metro Board Member Jackie Dupont-Walker, FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, Duarte Councilmember and Metro Board Member John Fasana, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas, Lakewood Councilmember and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Councilmember and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin and Metro CEO Art Leahy. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

From our friends at the Federal Transit Administration:

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today celebrated the signing of a $670 million construction grant agreement to help build the Regional Connector light rail transit line in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The two-mile rail segment will connect three existing transit lines, offering thousands of area residents more efficient and convenient access to jobs, education, and other ladders of opportunity. FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan took part in the signing event along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Xavier Becerra, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other state and local officials.

“LA’s Regional Connector will help make this city and region a better place for tens of thousands of Angelenos by ensuring that public transit not only works for everyone, but that it works better than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Administration is committed to ensuring that every American has access to ladders of opportunity that lead to success—and access to public transportation is essential to making that happen.”

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) will use FTA’s grant funds to build an underground connection between the existing Metro Gold line in Little Tokyo and the Exposition and Blue light rail lines, which currently terminate at Flower and 7th Streets. The grant also includes four new light rail vehicles to augment the existing fleet. The project will reconfigure Metro’s three existing LRT lines into two lines, one primarily running north to south, and one east to west. The project reconfiguration will eliminate the need for riders to make cumbersome transfers from light rail to the Metro Red or Purple Line subway system, and then back onto light rail, to reach their destinations.

“The Regional Connector will improve the quality of LA’s light rail service by offering a one-seat ride that cuts travel times from Long Beach to Azusa and from East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley to Santa Monica,” said FTA Deputy Administrator McMillan. “The traffic gridlock of Los Angeles has been the roadblock for many residents who need better, more reliable access to the jobs and educational opportunities offered across the metropolitan area, which is why we are proud to be a partner in the greater transit vision for the future of the Los Angeles region.”

LACMTA estimates the Regional Connector will open in 2020 and initially handle roughly 60,000 trips or more each weekday. In addition to the $670 million that FTA has committed to the project through its Capital Investment Grant (New Starts) Program, LACMTA will receive $64 million in other U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funds and a loan of up to $160 million from the DOT’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovative Action (TIFIA) loan program. The remainder of the roughly $1.4 billion project will be funded with state and local resources.

In addition to the Regional Connector, the FTA is advancing two other major transit expansion projects in the Los Angeles metropolitan area: the Crenshaw/LAX light rail transit corridor project and Section I of the Westside Purple Line Extension. The $2 billion Crenshaw project, which broke ground in January, is funded in part with a $545.9 million TIFIA loan and approximately $130 million in other FTA and DOT funds. DOT has approved a TIFIA loan of up to $856 million for the Westside project, which is also in line to receive funding through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program later this year.

Federal government approves $670-million grant and $160-million loan for Regional Connector

Officials from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration signed a pair of agreements Thursday that will provide a $670-million federal grant and a $160-million federally-backed loan for the Regional Connector light rail project. The total budget of the project is $1.37 billion.

A media event with public officials is being held at 10 a.m. next to the Gold Line’s Little Tokyo station. We’ll post photos and video later today.

In practical terms, the agreements clear the way for construction to begin later this year on the 1.9-mile underground light rail line in downtown L.A. that will tie together the existing Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line with tracks between 7th/Metro Center and Little Tokyo. When the project is complete — forecast for 2020 — passengers on those lines will be able to travel through downtown without having to transfer to another line.

The project will also allow trains to run more frequently through downtown. Blue Line and Expo Line trains currently must turn around at 7th/Metro Center, a time-munching maneuver.

Utility relocations on the project are already underway with construction expected to begin later this year after the Metro Board of Directors selects a contractor to build the line. Metro already has three light rail projects currently under construction — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The first phase of the Purple Line Extension of the subway is also expected to sign funding agreements with the federal government later this year, allowing the Metro Board to select a contractor to build that project.

That means that within the next calendar year, Metro could have an unprecedented five rail projects being built simultaneously that will add about 29 miles of rail to the existing 87-mile Metro Rail network. All five projects are also receiving significant funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The Connector is the first Metro project to receive a federal New Starts grant since the Eastside Gold Line, which opened in 2009. New Starts is a federal program designed to help local transit agencies build expensive transit projects.

The loan is coming from the federal TIFIA program, which helps local areas secure low-interest loans that are cheaper than loans found on the open market. The TIFIA program is part of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative that was expanded in the most recent federal multi-year transportation bill. Metro is seeking to have the program renewed and expended in the next bill, which Congress is expected to debate this year.

The Connector was originally envisioned as a rail project that would run at street level through downtown. Public opinion, however, swayed Metro to put the line underground, which increased costs but will also provide faster travel speeds and eliminate the need for a rail undercrossing at Alameda Street. The increased cost is the reason that federal funding is crucial for the project.

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The news release from Metro is after the jump.

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Metro debuts next generation bus today

Metro debuted the first of 550 New Flyer buses this morning. The New Flyer buses will be replacing the remaining high floor buses, thus making Metro a 100 percent low-floor fleet. Additionally, the buses will eventually replace all coaches built between 1999 and 2001, which will result in a much younger fleet that can continue to provide reliable service for Metro bus riders.

The Metro Board in January 2013 approved a $308-million contract for 550 new buses, which will be delivered over the next 18 months. One particular focus of Metro staff was making the buses as ADA-compliant and safe as possible and some of the new features of the new buses include the Q’Pod wheelchair securement system, which better accommodates passengers in wheelchairs. Each bus is also equipped with a new video monitoring system that can be downloaded wireless to law enforcement, if necessary.

The first buses will be put in service in areas of Los Angeles County served by Division 5 in South Los Angeles, Division 7 in West Hollywood and Division 18 in Carson. One of the new buses is also running today only along the 33 line that serves Venice Boulevard. 

On the ground photos of construction work on the Gold Line Foothill Extension

The folks at Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority hosted a media tour Thursday of the light rail project that will extend the Gold Line for 11.5 miles from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border with new stations in Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa and a sprawling light rail maintenance campus in Monrovia.

The project is halfway finished and Metro’s latest forecast calls for an opening in early 2016 (the Construction Authority will turn the project over to Metro, which will operate it and determine the date of opening). Already station foundations are poured, the BNSF tracks east of Duarte have been moved to accommodate freight trains, rails for the Gold Line are either in the ground or being moved into place and bridges are complete or work is finishing up.

In other words, it’s starting to look like a light rail line (check out the aerial photos of the project we posted last week and this article in the Pasadena Star News featuring the back of my head!). When both this project and the Regional Connector are complete, there will be continuous light rail track for 45 miles from Azusa to Long Beach, not to mention the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica. Amazeballs!

A couple of observations on the Foothill Extension project:

•With parking available at the new stations, I’m guessing the Gold Line will be a lot more convenient for riders who live east of Pasadena and who had to cope with the always-constipated traffic on the 210 freeway and then compete with spaces at the Sierra Madre Villa station parking garage. It should also be a quick train ride for many; the Foothill Extension, for example, is completely grade-separated between Sierra Madre Villa and the Arcadia station and there are other stretches of track with few, if any, street crossings.

•There are going to be some awesome development and redevelopment opportunities along the Foothill Extension, which is following old freight tracks that mostly went through industrial areas. There will be stations in downtown Arcadia and downtown Azusa and the city of Monrovia has been planning improvements, open space and development near their station for quite some time — it’s important because the tracks are about a mile south of Monrovia’s eminently pleasant downtown. Check out the renderings above.

As with any new rail line in our area, it remains to be seen how the rail-community interface comes together (I can easily write the same thing about any of the rail projects thus far in L.A. County). What’s important right now, I think, is that the rail side is coming together right now, courtesy of the Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008.

Many thanks to the Construction Authority for the tour last week and the tip about Canyon City Barbecue, which I nominate for an appearance on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” Also, here’s a screen grab of the latest interactive construction map from the Authority; click on the map to visit the interactive version.

ConstructionMap