Some new Expo Line Phase 2 construction pics

Progress continues on the second phase of the Measure R-funded Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica. The folks at the Expo Line Construction Authority sent over the above photos, all taken in recent days.

Both Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension are more than 50 percent complete and aiming toward forecast openings in early 2016.

Meanwhile, the Crenshaw/LAX Line broke ground earlier this year — we’ll have more soon about upcoming construction activities. Utility relocation continues for the Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension with the Metro Board expected to soon consider construction contracts for both projects.

New combined schedule published for Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster trains

Here’s the latest combined timetable for Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster trains in Southern California — it’s effective today, April 7.

This is also known as the LOSSAN schedule — LOSSAN stands for the rail corridors that run between San Luis Obispo in the north and San Diego in the south. From LOSSAN’s web page:

The LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency (Agency) is a joint powers authority originally formed in 1989 that works to increase ridership, revenue, capacity, reliability, coordination and safety on the coastal rail line between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. It is governed by a 11-member Board of Directors composed of elected officials representing rail owners, operators, and planning agencies along the rail corridor.  The LOSSAN Agency is staffed by the Orange County Transportation Authority.

 

Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster trains connect with local transit at numerous locations throughout Southern California — most notably Metro buses and trains in Los Angeles County, OCTA buses in Orange County, NCTD buses and trains in northern San Diego County and the San Diego trolley and bus system in San Diego and surrounding area.

Many of the cities served by Amtrak and commuter rail area also served by their own municipal bus lines.

Construction notice: weekend of San Gabriel Avenue in Azusa this weekend for Gold Line work

Here’s the alert from the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the 11.5-mile addition to the Gold Line between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border:

First of Three Weekend Closures of San Gabriel Ave in Azusa Begins this Weekend, April 4-7

WHO:  Residents / Commuters / Business Owners in the City of Azusa.

WHAT: San Gabriel Ave at the railroad crossing (between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd) in Azusa will be fully closed to thru-traffic in both directions for three weekends this month to allow crews to install track and signal work. This work is part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project. Motorists and pedestrians will be detoured around the work area.

WHEN:

San Gabriel Ave at the railroad crossing (between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd): Three full weekend closures to complete the grade crossing improvements:

-        Friday, April 4 at 3:00 p.m. thru Monday, April 7, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.: San Gabriel Ave will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

-        Friday, April 11 at 9:00 a.m. thru Monday, April 14, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.: San Gabriel Ave will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

-        Friday, April 25 at 9:00 a.m. thru Monday, April 28, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.: San Gabriel Ave will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

Note: Work hours will be 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. during these weekends. A full closure will not occur during the Easter holiday weekend.

WHERE: San Gabriel Ave at the railroad crossing between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

-        The street and sidewalk will be closed to thru-traffic during this work. Detour signage and routes will be in place during the weekend closures to guide motorists and pedestrians around the work area.

-        Access to all local residences and businesses on San Gabriel Ave will remain open at all times.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

-        Visit www.foothillextension.org

# # #

About the Construction Authority: The Construction Authority is an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1998 by the California State Legislature. Its purpose is to extend the Metro Gold Line light rail line from Union Station to Montclair, along the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. The Construction Authority built the initial segment from Union Station to Pasadena and is underway on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Foothill Extension is a nearly $2 billion extension that will connect Pasadena to Montclair in two construction segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The 11.5-mile Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Measure R and will be completed in September 2015, when it will be turned over to Metro for testing and pre-revenue service. Metro will determine when the line will open for passenger service. Three design-build contracts, totaling more than $550 million, are being overseen by the Construction Authority to complete the Pasadena to Azusa segment. The Azusa to Montclair segment is environmentally cleared and is proceeding to advanced conceptual engineering in 2014.

Court rules for Metro in state lawsuits brought by Beverly Hills over subway extension

A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Metro on Wednesday in state lawsuits brought by the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills alleging that the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension project were flawed and needed to be redone.

To put it in plain English: Judge John A. Torribio upheld the studies and denied the requests that they be redone, a task which could have potentially cost Metro millions of dollars and delayed construction of the project. The judge found that Metro’s decision to place a station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars in Century City was based on “substantial evidence” and that the station location meets the project’s goals of increasing mobility in the region.

Metro issued this statement about the ruling:

“Metro is pleased that our in-depth, multi-year environmental review process was found valid by the Superior Court.  We look forward to working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills, to fulfill our commitment to deliver this regionally significant and beneficial project for the taxpayers of L.A. County.”

The dispute involves Metro’s plans to tunnel under the Beverly Hills High School campus in order to reach the approved Century City station at the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue. The station location was selected by Metro for three reasons: to locate a station closer to the heart of Century City, generate higher ridership for the new line and to avoid an active earthquake fault  zone that runalong Santa Monica Boulevard as determined by seismic and geotechnical studies by Metro and its contractors.

The Constellation route meant that the subway would have to tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. School District and city officials complained that could damage the school and/or prevent them from building an underground parking garage, among other issues. After a final Metro Board hearing on the matter in May 2012, Metro determined that it was safe to tunnel beneath the campus, the tunnels would not prohibit any new development, noise and vibration levels would be within federal limits, old oil wells in the area do not present an unmitigable risk to tunneling and the project would not prevent the campus from being used as an emergency evacuation center.

Both the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have also filed lawsuits against the Federal Transit Administration, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act. The FTA is helping fund the Purple Line Extension and approved the environmental studies for it. Those lawsuits are still in court.

Local funding for the 8.5-mile Purple Line Extension was approved as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that was supported by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project is being built in three phases: phase one is from Wilshire & Western to Wilshire & La Cienega, phase two extends the project to Century City and the third phase extends tracks to two stations in Westwood — one at Wislhire and Westwood and the final one near the Westwood/VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway.

Advanced utility relocation for the first phase of the project is underway and the FTA is expected to soon announce a funding agreement for that part of the project. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to select a contractor to build the project this summer with construction starting in late 2014. The first phase is currently forecast to open in 2023.

Trees to be removed for Crenshaw/LAX Line along Crenshaw Boulevard

Crenshaw_lax_tree_removal_factsheet FINAL 032614 Crenshaw2

We posted last week about plans to remove about 135 trees along Wilshire Boulevard to accommodate the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. This week we are posting about similar tree removal plans for the Crensaw/LAX Line, a subject tackled in a story published Monday in the L.A. Times.

The above flier provides a good overview of the work. The highlights:

•The removals will be done in three stages, as shown in the map in the above flier.

Phase 1 from Exposition Boulevard to 48th Street: 98 trees are being removed. Of those, the arborist has identified 11 trees that may potentially be relocatedThe final decision on the number of trees to be relocated will to made by the city of Los Angeles. Two trees will be planted for each tree that is being removed.

Phase 2 from 48th to 67th streets: the arborist report for this area is still in draft phase but it is estimated that 53 trees will be removed with two trees planted for each that is removed. The actual number of trees to be removed may vary.

Phase 3: the arborist report is still under development and the number of trees to be removed is still to be determined.

•The plan is to keep the present trees as long as possible until construction is imminent. The plan calls for planting two trees for every non-native tree that is removed.

•Perhaps the most controversial of the tree removals is in Park Mesa Heights, where mature Canary Island Pines are in the median of Crenshaw Boulevard. These are trees, as their name implies, are native to the Canary Islands located off the northwest coast of Africa and are known for being drought-tolerant.

The median and the trees will eventually being removed to accommodate the train tracks that will run down the middle of the street.

Here are a couple of views:

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.57.02 PM

This is the view looking south on Crenshaw Boulevard between 51st and 52nd Streets. Photo: Google Maps.

The Endeavour moving north through Park Mesa Heights in 2012. The light rail line will run along the median at right, where the trees are located. Photo by Steve Hymon.

A view of the trees looking north on Crenshaw Boulevard from 54th Street. The train will run down the middle of the street and north and south traffic and parking lanes will be on either side of the tracks. Photo by Steve Hymon.

The Canary Pines were considered for relocation, but it was determined they didn’t have a good chance of surviving for a variety of reasons including their extensive root systems, previous damage from vehicles on Crenshaw Boulevard and from signs being posted to them in the past.

•The size of the replacement trees will vary depending on the species. The trees will initially be raised in nurseries and some may be nine- to 10-feet tall when first planted along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment.

•Plans still need to be finalized for the palm trees along the rail right-of-way on the north side of Florence Avenue. The project’s environmental studies indicated that most would remain and Metro is required to preserve 90 percent of the palms in the right-of-way in the city of Inglewood.

•The city of Los Angeles Planning Department is in the midst of developing a streetscape plan for the Crenshaw Boulevard area that is being funded with a grant from Metro. The agency has commented on the plan — but it’s important to recognize the plan is not part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line project.

•On a similar note, some trees in the project area were previously removed for the move of the Endeavour from LAX to the California Science Center. The museum has a plan to replace those trees. That plan is separate from the Crenshaw/LAX Line project.

Union Station: A grand opening

Click on a photo to see a larger version or click on the first version to begin a slideshow-type display. Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Collection.

This is the first of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout April. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal finally opened to the public on May 3, 1939 and it was celebrated with a massive parade down Alameda Street. The theme was the history of transportation and the parade included covered wagons, stagecoaches, Pony Express riders and several massive steam-powered locomotives.

The station’s grand opening was a huge deal for what was still in many ways an unsophisticated western town, albeit one whose population mushroomed since 1920 to about 1.5 million people in 1939. The city finally had a central passenger terminal. The L.A. Times reported that people hung from trees to get a better look at the festivities. Some fainted from the heat.

The parade was followed by tours of the station and a 45-minute production called “Romance of the Rails.” The free show along the tracks inside Union Station was subtitled “California’s Story of Transportation,” and the program notes that it was adapted and directed by John Ross Reed. No one now seems to know who John Ross Reed was. Was he a famous Hollywood director of the time?

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Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

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Other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors today

It was a very quiet and relatively quick meeting today of the Metro Board of Directors owing to a light agenda. Don’t fret: I suspect the April and May meetings will be far busier — the May 22 meeting, in particular, is when the Board is scheduled to consider fare changes.

As for today, a couple of items of potential interest:

•The Board approved amending Metro’s Customer Code of Conduct to explicitly prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in Metro buses, trains and other facilities. The Code already prohibited smoking, so this is basically a clarification of that rule.

•The Board approved the motion by Board Members Eric Garcetti and Don Knabe seeking Metro to implement a number of technology upgrades, including potentially internet access on buses and trains. Here’s the motion and an earlier post.

•The Board voted to receive and file a staff report on Metro’s executive reorganization plan.

Yaroslavsky motion pushes for creation of San Fernando Valley-Westwood Express bus

We posted last month about proposed route changes for buses in the San Fernando Valley. One of the proposals is for the creation of a new 588 bus that would operate at peak hours that would run between Westwood and Nordhoff Street in North Hills, mostly along the 405 freeway and Van Nuys Boulevard. This new line still requires funding.

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky submitted a motion to the Metro Board today about the 588 bus; the motion was approved unanimously by the Board today and asks that staff continue the studies needed for the line and to report back to the Board in May. Here’s the text of the motion:

Motion by Director Yaroslavsky

Valley-Westside Express Bus

The San Fernando Valley and Westside are two of Los Angeles’ largest economic engines—places where millions live, shop, work and play. However, there is currently no express transit connection between the regions, which are separated by the Santa Monica Mountains.

This summer, the 405 Project is expected to complete construction and open High Occupancy Vehicle lanes that will create a new avenue for express bus service through the Sepulveda Pass.

Earlier this month, the San Fernando Valley and Westside/Central Local Service Councils held public hearings and made recommendations on proposed changes to bus service in their respective regions. Among the recommendations was the creation of Line 588, an express bus offering nonstop service through the Sepulveda Pass via the I-405 HOV lanes. The line would connect Westwood to the Orange Line and extend north along Van Nuys Boulevard to North Hills. When Phase 2 of Expo Line opens, it would extend south to meet it, providing a connection to Santa Monica, USC and downtown L.A. The proposed line received strong support from the public.

Line 588 promises an immediate solution for Metro patrons while plans for a more extensive future project through the Sepulveda Pass are being evaluated. Because funding has not yet been identified for the bus line, staff is not currently conducting the tests, studies and analyses that are needed to operate it. While efforts to fund the line continue, staff should make these preparations to ensure that Line 588 can begin serving the public as soon as possible.

I, THEREFORE, MOVE that the Board direct staff to:

1.    Prepare studies, tests and analysis for launching Line 588, an express bus connecting the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via the I-405 HOV lanes; and

2.    Report back on the status and progress of the preparations at the May, 2014 full Board meeting.

About 135 trees to eventually be removed for Purple Line Extension

BevHillsFanPalms

Mexican fan palms to be removed near the future Wilshire/La Cienega station in Beverly Hills.

CityofLAtrees

Plane trees in the city of Los Angeles to be removed for subway construction.

As we move deeper into the era of construction for Measure R projects, we’re also going to be writing more about the inevitable work impacts of building transit and road projects.

And thus today’s news: about 135 trees — about 34 in Beverly Hills and 101 in the city of Los Angeles — will eventually have to be removed and later replaced along Wilshire Boulevard to accommodate work on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway.

Most of the trees to be removed are in the area where three new stations will be excavated: Wilshire and La Brea, Wilshire and Fairfax and Wilshire and La Cienega. Metro says it will plant two trees for every one that is removed.

The bulk of the tree removals are still about a year away and will be managed by the future contractor. However, in the next month or so, Metro is seeking to remove two Mexican fan palms from the median of Wilshire just east of Detroit (near the Wilshire/La Brea station site) for pre-construction work — specifically, fiber optic utility relocation. The agency has also submitted draft Master Tree Removal Plans to both Beverly Hills and Los Angeles and will work with both cities toward agreement on a final plan.

Of the trees to be removed, many are not in good shape and Metro officials say likely would not survive transplanting. None of the trees are protected, historically significant or belong to threatened species, although some of the Mexican fan palms to be removed are taller than 50 feet (Mexican Fan palms are a very common tree planted in cities in warm weather locales in the U.S.).

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