Community invited to open house for new Airport Integrated Project Management Office

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Metro and Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors (WSCC) are inviting the community to an open house for the new Airport Integrated Project Management Office (IPMO).

Event Details
Saturday, March 15, 2014
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project Airport IPMO
9323 Bellanca Avenue
Los Angeles, 90045

Community residents, property owners, business owners and merchants along the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project alignment are invited to learn how Metro and WSCC staff are collaborating, designing and beginning to build the 8.5-mile, $2.058 billion light-rail project that will extend from Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards to the Metro Green Line. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony, entertainment by the Crenshaw High School Jazz Band, refreshments and a raffle. Free parking will be available in an adjacent lot. For more information, crenshawcorridor@metro.net or call (213) 922-2736.

Signage project to improve way-finding at Union Station is set to begin March 11

When Metro started the Union Station Master Planning process, the agency kicked off with a series of focus groups including many kinds of stakeholders – transit users, transit operators, neighbors and business improvement groups.

One of the themes heard overwhelmingly is that while our stakeholders were excited about the master plan and a future vision for the station, they wanted Metro to make immediate improvements. Which, in fact, Metro plans to do with a signage improvement program as detailed in the document posted above.

Among our stakeholders, it was noted that many people get lost in Union Station. Some of the common complaints: it’s a big place and it’s often hard to know where you are — and where you’re supposed to go to reach buses and trains and places such as Olvera Street, which is only a block away from Union Station’s frontage on Alameda Street.

It’s not surprising that visitors often cannot find their way around. When the station opened in 1939, clarity of circulation was inherent in the design. Street cars, taxis and private cars were funneled to the front side of the station. Once inside, passengers went from the ticket hall in front to the waiting room to the gates that led to platforms. Carefully laid tile in the floors guided arriving and departing passengers to the appropriate locations and it was easy to get around without much thought and without much signage.

After a major decline in rail service that lasted through the 1980s, Union Station is a far different place today. The station is now served by the Red/Purple Line subway and the two segments of the Gold Line — which will one day be linked to the Blue and Expo Lines via the Regional Connector project. There are more than a dozen Metro Bus routes that stop near the station, not to mention stops for other muni buses. Union Station also serves inter-city rail (Amtrak) and commuter rail (Metrolink), the FlyAway bus to Los Angeles International Airport , inter-city buses and various shuttles.

In 1995 Metro opened its headquarters building in the “Gateway Center” area of the station, followed by the opening of Patsaouras Bus Plaza and the East Portal.  This represented a fundamental change in the design of the station – we now had an east entrance to the station and the passageway (aka the tunnel) now had two sides to it.  Efforts were made to direct transit users and visitors across the station as it grew and changed, but signs were added on a piecemeal basis and there was never a consistent design.

For example, in our study of the existing signage conditions, we identified signs directing customers to “Metro Headquarters,” “Gateway Center,” “MTA Headquarters,” or “Gateway Plaza.” Four different names for the same building!

With Metro’s purchase of the station in April 2011 and commitment to planning for the long term, the new Environmental Graphics and Signage plan (the “Plan”) is a first step in that direction.  The Plan brings a deep knowledge of the movement of passengers across the station and provides a plan and design that offers both beauty and consistency.  The plan also takes advantage of new technology Metro is testing to make Union Station a pilot site for better incorporating technology into our transit system.

Some highlights of the signage plan are below. Thanks to Selbert Perkins Design for their work on the project and the following renderings:

•Preservation of the four existing historic mounted signs. 

HistoricSignage

With close supervision of our consulting historic architect, ARG, Metro is removing, documenting and storing the last of the concourse gates and the Information cabinet. Other historic signage will remain, as shown in the above slide.

•Opening up the concourse. The Plan aims to create clear sightlines from the passageway to the western (Alameda) entrance to the station and to the South Patio, key travel paths for transit users and visitors.  This will be achieved by the removal and storage of the historic signs, coupled with the recent removal of the seating from the concourse area. 

Moving the “queuing” of Amtrak passengers waiting for seat assignments and boarding in the concourse.  Many users had their travel path blocked by stanchions and rows of baggage-carrying passengers lined up from the concourse down into the waiting room.  These passengers now get their information at the Amtrak service desk and wait in the historic seating in the beautiful waiting room.

•New electronic signage in the waiting room. To reiterate the use of the waiting room as a place to sit and wait, and in close cooperation with Metrolink, two new electronic LED signs will be placed in the waiting room, offering arrival and departure information for both Amtrak and Metrolink services. This data will mirror the data that is currently provided in the information cabinet: 

NewCabinet

And how the new waiting room signs will look:

Waiting Room_C04 Wall Mounted_whiteback

•Standard nomenclature.  The Plan offers both a new naming convention for general orientation around the station as well as a standardization across the names of various “places” on the station property.  The overall site remains Union Station, but we have designated “Union Station East” and “Union Station West” to help general orientation for first time visitors, and we continue this convention on maps and directional signage.

•Perimeter improvements.  The Plan includes a series of perimeter wayfinding signs at scales appropriate for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. We are also introducing identity pylons at 3 main corners: Alameda/El Monte Busway, Cesar Chavez/Vignes and the entrance to the Patsaouras Bus Plaza. 

The corner of Cesar Chavez/Vignes now:

ChavezVignesBefore

And how it will look:

Site Perimeter_Chavez Vignes_whitebackground

•East Portal Pylon and Interactive Help Desk.  We will place a new pylon in the East Portal, carefully located outside the path of travel for transit connections, to provide a clear marking point as well as pilot a new interactive “help desk” function. The pylon will include four, 55-inch interactive touch-screens that provide Metro’s trip planner system, web page as well as internet access focused on tourist and destination information. 

As it looks now:

EastPortal_before

As it will look:

East Portal Totem north

•New bus bay markers at Patsaouras Bus Plaza.  We will replace the bus bay markers with new markers, equipped with Metro’s real time NextBus system at every marker. 

As it looks now:

Patsaouras_before1

As it will look:

Patsaouras Plaza_A05

The removal of some existing signs is set to begin March 11, with the with the complete signage package in place by May 3, when Metro will host a slate of activities honoring the 75th anniversary of Union Station.  The first stage of this Plan does not include the Gateway Parking Garage, but this will be re-signed in a subsequent phase and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014. 

Construction Notice: Sound wall installation at northeast corner of Crenshaw Blvd and Rodeo Rd

As part of the construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, Walsh-Shea Corridor Constructors will begin the installation of a 16-foot tall sound wall around the perimeter of the property located at the northeast corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Road.

This is the site of the future Crenshaw/Exposition underground station. Over the next 5 years, it will serve as a construction staging yard for the project. The work will be performed in two phases. The work is scheduled to begin the week of March 10, 2014 and last approximately three weeks. Construction will take place from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, weather permitting.

Sound Wall Installation Expo Yard Notice

Construction Notice: exploratory work related to the Universal Pedestrian Bridge Project

Universal Station Bridge Notice

Roadway reconstruction on Sepulveda Blvd between Montana Ave and Church Ln planned March 14 – April 28

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is scheduled to conduct roadway reconstruction work of approximately one-half mile of Sepulveda Boulevard in West Los Angeles between Montana Avenue and Church Lane between March 14 and April 28, 2014. The contractor will perform a full-depth reconstruction of this portion of Sepulveda Boulevard, demolishing existing asphalt concrete, grading, compacting and paving new roadway.  This work will require daytime lane reductions and full night-time and weekend street closures in this area.

The work schedule is as follows:

Sepulveda Boulevard Closures from Montana Avenue to Church Lane:

Full weekend closures: from 10 p.m. on Fridays to 6 a.m. on Mondays, March 14 to April 28.

Reduced to One Lane in Each Direction: from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, March 14 to April 28.

Full nighttime closures: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on weekday nights, March 17 to April 28.

Detours:  Night & Weekend Closures:

Southbound Sepulveda, right to westbound/southbound Church Lane, left to eastbound Montana, right to southbound Sepulveda.

Northbound Sepulveda, left to westbound Montana Avenue, right to northbound/eastbound Church Lane, left to northbound Sepulveda.

What to expect:

Upcoming Foothill Boulevard closures in Azusa: full weekend and one-way closures between Vernon and Orange avenues

Photo: The bridge over Foothill Boulevard in Azusa. Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Photo: The railroad bridge over Foothill Boulevard in Azusa with the new bridge deck beams. Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

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

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

WHAT: Crews will set the bridge deck beams for the three Foothill Blvd Bridges, as part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project. One bridge is for freight, and two for light rail. Some activities will require a full street closure (both east and westbound) during the first two weekends, while others will require daily directional (one-way) closures for approximately six weeks in each direction during off-peak travel hours. During the closures, detour signage will be posted to direct traffic around the work area.

WHEN:

WEEKEND FULL STREET CLOSURES (UPDATED)

- Friday, March 7, 2014 at 9:00 pm until Monday, March 10, 2014 at 5:00 am: Foothill Boulevard will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Vernon Ave and Orange Ave. Traffic will be detoured and signage will be posted to direct motorists and pedestrians.

- Friday, March 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm until Monday, March 17, 2014 at 5:00 am: Foothill Boulevard will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Vernon Ave and Orange Ave. Traffic will be detoured and signage will be posted to direct motorists and pedestrians.

DAILY OFF-PEAK DIRECTIONAL CLOSURES (SIX WEEKS IN EACH DIRECTION):

- Monday, March 17, 2014, daily for approximately 6 weeks: Eastbound Foothill Blvd will be closed to thru-traffic daily between Vernon Ave and Orange Ave during the hours of 4:00 am – 2:00 pm only. Eastbound traffic will be detoured and signage will be posted to direct motorists during these hours.

- Monday, April 28, 2014, daily for approximately 6 weeks: Westbound Foothill Blvd will be closed to thru-traffic daily between Vernon Ave and Orange Ave during the hours of 9:00 am – 10:00 pm only. Westbound traffic will be detoured and signage will be posted to direct motorists during these hours.

WHERE: Foothill Boulevard between Vernon Ave and Orange Ave in the City of Azusa.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

- During the closures, traffic will be detoured and signage will be posted to direct motorists.

- The sidewalk will remain closed to pedestrians during the full weekend closure; however, pedestrian access will be available on one side of Foothill Boulevard during the “one-way” closures.

- Motorists are advised to expect delays and use alternate routes when possible.

- Access to all local businesses on Foothill Blvd will remain open at all times.

Construction schedules are subject to change for various reasons, including, but not limited to, weather conditions and unforeseen delays.

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.

Photos of the exploratory shaft being dug in preparation of Purple Line Extension construction

Click on any photo to see larger.

My colleague Dave Sotero and I had a chance today to visit the exploratory shaft being dug as part of the Purple Line Extension subway project. If you’ve been to LACMA recently, you may have noticed the big wall covered with Metro posters across the street. That’s the exploratory shaft.

It’s quite a feat. The shaft is already 65 feet deep and is being dug to learn more about soil conditions in the area and validate what is already known. The work is an important step in preparing for station excavation and tunneling for the subway.

Quite a few fossils have already been found, including clams, sand dollars and parts of the cone and seeds for digger pine trees. While we were there, in fact, a rock was found that appears to have a sea lion skull within it that is perhaps two million years or more old. Metro is working with the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits to identify and preserve the fossils found.

We’ll post lots more about the shaft soon. In the meantime, Channel 7 should have a segment on the work being done as part of tonight’s newscast. See KABC 7′s story here. 

Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

Kim Scott, Director of Paleontology for Cogstone, a Metro project consultant, holds a rock that appears to contain the skull of a sea lion, perhaps two million years or more old. It was unearthed Tuesday afternoon during excavation of the exploratory shaft for the Purple Line Extension subway project. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

Graphic: New Starts funding for Metro over the years — and finally on the rise again!

New Starts Appropriations Graph

The above graphic is certainly worth a look. It shows the amount of federal New Starts money received by Metro on an annual basis since 1993. New Starts is a federal program that helps local transit agencies pay for big, expensive projects and most of the money shown above went to the existing Red/Purple Line subway and the Eastside Gold Line.

The graphic is also missing a critical piece of good news. President Obama’s proposed transportation budget for fiscal year 2015 (which begins Oct. 1, 2014), which was announced today, includes $100 million for the Regional Connector and $100 million for the Purple Line Extension. If the budget is approved by Congress, the $200 million in New Starts money for Metro would be the most received in any given year.

The $100 million for the Regional Connector is part of the eventual $670 million in New Starts money that the project will receive. That was the big news a couple of weeks ago when Metro and the U.S. Department of Transportation finalized the New Starts deal. A similar deal for $1.25 billion in funding for the Purple Line Extension project should also be completed soon. Both projects are also drawing on funds from Measure R, the local sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Stepping back, let’s look at the big picture. The Connector and Purple Line Extension also plan to use federally-backed TIFIA loans that will help Metro get lower interest rates than if they borrowed money for construction at market rates. That’s significant because it shows the degree to which the federal government under President Obama is getting involved in helping local areas build transit. It may not all be grant money — i.e. money Metro doesn’t have to pay back — but the loans still help Metro take on less debt and thus spend less on already pricey projects.

The loans are part of Metro’s America Fast Forward [AFF] proposal that has found its way into President Obama’s proposal for a multi-year transportation funding bill. AFF would expand the loan program and also create federally-subsidized bonds that local agencies could use when building projects. And that’s what I want readers to understand: the loans, the bonds, the New Starts money and Measure R combined — that’s the big kahuna here, folks. Those four things together give Metro the resources to build the expanded transit network many readers here want.

Finally, and on a very related note, I wanted to pass along a thank you from Metro officials to President Obama and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein for helping Metro secure the federal funds and advocating for expanded transit funding in Los Angeles and other cities across the nation.

Roundup of Thursday’s Metro Board of Directors meeting

A few items of interest tackled by the Metro Board at today’s monthly meeting:

•The Board approved Item 16 to provide $1.3 million for improvements to the Branford Street railroad crossing of Metrolink tracks in Los Angeles in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Improvements include pedestrian gates, roadway widening and additional warning signals.

•The Board approved Item 55 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 also approved Item 56 to rename the Exposition/La Brea station to the Exposition/La Brea Ethel Bradley Station.

•The Board approved Item 58, a motion that asks 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 of an agency with a multi-billion dollar annual budget.

•The Board approved Item 67, 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.
•The Board approved Item 18.1, 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.

•The Board approved Item 70, a motion asking Metro to seek ways to improve lighting and pedestrian access to/from the Universal City over-flow parking lot for the Red Line station.

Item 9, a motion to eliminate the monthly maintenance fee for ExpressLanes accounts that infrequently use the lanes and substitute a flat $1 fee on all accounts, was held and will be considered by the Board in April.

Board of Directors motion asks Metro to make renewed effort on public-private parnterships to fund transpo projects

Interesting motion above that was approved today by the Metro Board. My read on the motion: it’s three members of the Metro Board — Eric Garcetti, Michael D. Antonovich and Diane DuBois — asking Metro to step up its game when it comes to developing public-private partnerships to help fund and build transportation projects.

As the name implies, public-private partnerships are financial agreements between public agencies and private companies. There are several variations of PPPs but generally speaking it means a private firm fronts some of the money to build a project and then is paid back later, sometimes from revenues created by the project.

Metro has a PPP program that has already identified five big projects that might make for good PPPs — the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor (which could involve building a rail line under the Pass to connect the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, a very pricey idea), the High Desert Corridor, the 710 South and 710 North projects and a project that would construct congestion pricing lanes on the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita area. But no deals have been finalized.

It’s hard to discuss PPPs without mentioning what’s happening in the Denver metro area, where voters in 2004 approved a sales tax increase to fund a big transit expansion. A PPP is being used there to build some of the commuter rail projects — including the 22-mile line that will connect downtown Denver and Denver International Airport.

Sound familiar? It should. Both Antonovich and Garcetti have made repeated public statements about the importance of connecting Metro Rail to LAX via the Airport Metro Connector project — a project that will likely need funding beyond the scope of Measure R to be fully realized.