Video from the Purple Line funding event in Washington last month

Better late than never! Above is a condensed version of the many, many speakers at the Washington D.C. event on May 21 where Metro and the Federal Transit Administration finalized a deal for $2.1 billion in a federal grant and federally-backed TIFIA loan to help pay for the construction of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension.

RELATED:

New Purple Line Extension provides construction timeline and other key info

 

Southbound 405 closures between Getty Center Drive and Sunset Boulevard planned nights of June 5, 6

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is scheduled to conduct nighttime freeway closures on the southbound I-405 between Getty Center Drive and Sunset Boulevard the nights of Thursday, June 5 and Friday, June 6, 2014 to facilitate demolition, excavation, paving, drainage work, and preparatory work for permanent striping. Closure information is as follows:

The southbound I-405 will be fully closed from Getty Center Drive to Sunset Boulevard on:

  • Midnight, Thursday, June 5, to 5 a.m., Friday, June 6
  • Midnight, Friday, June 6, to 5 a.m., Saturday, June 7

Ramp Closures:

  • Ramps begin closing as early as 7 p.m. and lanes begin closing at 10 p.m. on the nights of each operation
  • Southbound on-ramp from Getty Center Drive

Detour Route:Exit southbound Getty off-ramp, head southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard, make a right onto Church Lane and head south to the southbound on-ramp from westbound Sunset Boulevard.

What to expect:

 

New Purple Line Extension presentation provides construction timeline, other key info

The Purple Line Extension held a meeting with the Phase 1 advisory group last week. The Powerpoint presentation given by Metro is posted above with a ton of information on ongoing utility relocations, future construction activity and mitigation plans to keep noise at a minimum, as much as is possible, for those who live and work near the future subway [pdf here].

I’ve also pulled a few key slides to show below (but please see the entire presentation!!!). In particular, I know several readers asked for a construction timeline after Metro and the Federal Transit Administration last month signed a deal providing $2.1 billion in federal grants and loans to help fund the building of the project’s first phase, which is also funded by the half-cent Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008.

The first phase of the Purple Line Extension will run for 3.9 miles between the existing Wilshire/Western station and Wilshire/La Cienega. There will be three new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. The project’s second and third phases will extend the Purple Line to downtown Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and the VA Hospital.

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The following slides describe the basic construction activities that will be taking place over the next nine years.

PileInstallation

Decking

Excavation

StationConstruction

TunnelBoring

Hauling:Staging

There are also 10 slides on noise mitigation strategies. A couple of the key ones are below — but I highly encourage you to look at the entire presentation above for more info about this topic. Metro officials have emphasized to me time and again that while they are seeking extended work hours to get the project open in 2023, they are committed to keeping as much noise as is possible to a minimum, performing the most noisy tasks during the day or early evening and being respectful of surrounding neighborhoods.

Metro officials really want people to understand that a lot of the construction activity will be occurring below street level and out of view. The most disruptive activity is that which happens at street level — at the new station locations and Wilshire/Western where Metro has to open the ground to retrieve the tunnel boring machine and the extension must be connected to the existing Purple Line tracks. Those activities will be restricted by time and location.

As we’ve stated previously, Metro is seeking extended work hours in order to wrap up the surface work as quickly as can be done and then most of the station construction will occur below ground, beneath concrete decking.

Noise1 Noise2 Noise3

There is a wealth of information about the Purple Line Extension on the project’s home page on metro.net. You can receive updates on the project via Facebook and Twitter.

 

More details and renderings on the evolving Union Station Master Plan

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A rendering of the Union Station property in the future after the Master Plan is implemented. Click above to see larger.

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This rendering shows the new concourse and bus plaza, which would move from the eastern to western side of the station. Click above to see larger.

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Near-term plans involve replacing the parking lot at the front of Union Station with a civic plaza and streetscape improvements along both sides of Alameda Street.

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Far-term plans could include expanding the civic plaza, opening up access to the site along the corner of Cesar Chavez and Alameda and closing part of Los Angeles Street. Click above to see larger.

Progress continues on finalizing the Union Station Master Plan. As you may recall, the Metro Board of Directors last fall approved a basic concept for the station that included a greatly expanded concourse to run under the existing train platforms and both relocating and consolidating the bus plaza to the west side of the current tunnel under the tracks.

Metro provided a media briefing for reporters Monday afternoon that included much of the information that will be provided to the public at a community workshop this Thursday, June 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Union Station Board Room. No RSVP is necessary for those who wish to attend. 

First, some basic background: in 2011 Metro purchased the Union Station property, including about 47 acres of land from Catellus, the private firm that owned the facility. With nearly 70,000 people currently using the station on the average weekday — a number expected to grow to 100,000 by 2020 and to 140,000 by 2040 — Metro has been working on a master plan to improve how the station functions as a transit facility. The Master Plan would also expand green space at the station, accommodate potential development that would work alongside a bus and train station, preserve its historic architectural character and make Union Station more of a destination for everyone in our region.

Here are some of the refinements to the Master Plan:

•The new passenger concourse will greatly expand the existing passageway. The concourse will be significantly wider than the existing (and often crowded) pedestrian tunnel and there will be elevators and stairs accessing each of the rail platforms above. Those rail platforms will be spaced out differently and widened from their existing 23 feet to around 30 feet. The location of the current entrance to the Red/Purple Line will remain the same.

Here are three renderings of the new concourse.

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•Metro also plans to eliminate a long-standing bottleneck in a project separate from the Union Station Master Plan but moving forward in coordination with the plan. At present, Union Station is a dead end for Metrolink and Amtrak trains — all trains must enter and exit via tracks on the north side of the facility. Metro’s SCRIP project — now in its environmental and engineering phase — would allow trains to enter and exit the station via its south side by running four tracks over the 101 freeway and connecting to the existing tracks along the Los Angeles River.

The tracks would improve train capacity at Union Station by 40 to 50 percent, according to Metro. The project also gives Metro the chance to make improvements to the rail yard and concourse below.

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Caltrans reopens reconstructed Shoemaker Avenue bridge

Photos: Juan Ocampo/Metro

Metro Deputy CEO Lindy Lee joined Caltrans this morning for a milestone ribbon cutting ceremony for the Shoemaker Avenue Bridge project. It is one of three bridges associated with the $180 million I-5 South HOV Widening/Rosecrans/Bloomfield Bridges widening project.  Shoemaker Ave. bridge is the first completely reconstructed bridge to open to the public. Metro was a significant funding partner, programming $40.4 million from Proposition C towards the total project cost.

The newly reconstructed bridge serves as a vital artery for local commuters in the cities of Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs. It is also a major thoroughfare for school buses from the La Mirada-Norwalk School District.

Keep reading after the jump for the full press release from Caltrans.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 28

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Editor’s note: Hello Source readers. I’m traveling this week and will be mostly away from the blog — but wanted to catch up to the news of late. Regular programming resumes next Monday!

Metro fares will increase despite protests of low-income riders (L.A. Times)

Good story covers all the bases in last Thursday’s vote by the Board of Directors to raise the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75 this fall while including two hours of free transfers — meaning some riders may see a fare decrease. Many others, of course, will not. Excerpt:

Riders’ advocates said the increase will disproportionately hurt minority passengers, who make up about 80% of bus ridership. More than 90% of Metro riders are low-income, with an average household earning less than $20,000, according to agency data.

“Do you even understand how much we’re struggling day by day?” said Hee Pok Kim, a 92-year-old woman who could barely see over the public comment lectern. She spoke in Korean through a translator. “When we reach out to you for help, you shouldn’t push us away. You should grab our hands.”

We received a lot of comments and questions on the fare increases on The Source. I’ve answered the inquiries that I could. Metro officials are preparing answers to other questions and we will have all the information on the blog soon.

Northbound car-pool lane opens on the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass (Daily News) 

Coverage of the opening of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 on Friday. Excerpt:

As many as 300,000 cars and trucks pass over the 405 Freeway each day — a number that may rise by 50 percent to 447,000 by 2025, federal transit officials say.

The car-pool lanes have become the primary tool for adding capacity to such aging freeways with little room to grow, according to Caltrans. The state has 1,400 miles of car-pool lanes, or 40 percent of the nation’s total, with more than 800 miles in Southern California.

Similar car-pool lanes are being added along the 5 Freeway between Santa Clarita and downtown, with plans for continuous HOV lanes through Orange County.

In Los Angeles, each average car-pool lane can ferry 3,100 people in 1,300 vehicles per hour — nearly double the number of motorists than in a regular lane, MTA officials say. Together, some 322,000 cars containing 750,000 people car-pool across Los Angeles County each day, making it the busiest HOV lane system in the country.

Officials hope those numbers will grow as more car-pool lanes are added and more commuters opt to share rides as the legendary traffic worsens across the region. A new express bus may be in the works between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

 

We’ll be keeping tabs on the studies for the express bus. As for the numbers above about increases in traffic, it will be very interesting to see if those kind of numbers come to pass. They certainly make a good argument for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, which aims to provide transit across — or perhaps under — the Pass.

LA gets Purple Line transit money but will Angelenos leave their cars? (KPCC)

The headline doesn’t quite match the story, although there’s some of the usual skepticism about investing in transit in a city renowned for getting around by car. Elected officials from our region point out — rightfully, I think — that building an alternative to sitting in So Cal’s infamous traffic seems like the smart and kind of obvious thing to do.

I also think the last four graphs are the most important. Excerpt:

Transit construction is booming across LA County. By years’ end, there will be a record five rail lines under construction, funded in part by $3.5 billion in federal grants and loans.

The competition for future federal dollars to finish those projects will be tougher. LA got one in ten TIFIA loan dollars over the past two years. Measure R gave the region a head start, but now states and local communities across the nation are also competing for the loans. In fact, attending the Wednesday press conference was a public radio reporter from Alaska who says her state wants a shot at TIFIA money for a major bridge project.

Senator Feinstein says there’s another “boogeyman” out there that could prevent LA from getting future funding: sequestration. If Congress returns to its cost-cutting solution that mandates across the board cuts, funding for future transportation projects – including extension of the Purple Line to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood – will be in jeopardy.

The Purple Line is scheduled to reach La Cienega Blvd. by 2023. It won’t reach the VA until 2035. The project is projected to cost $2.8 billion.

There is, of course, Measure R money available to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood. But federal loans and grants profoundly help and it won’t be good news if those things end up being in short supply.

The myth of the magic bus: the weird politics and persistently weird logic of the Orange Line (Streetsblog L.A.)

Writer Roger Rudick argues the Orange Line should have been a rail line and is not the success that some claim it to be as it’s often running at capacity. He argues that for the same cost — $324 million or $23 million per mile — the Orange Line could have been rail, citing the cost of a couple other rail projects in the U.S., including the Sprinter in northern San Diego County. Lots of interesting debate in the comments.

As far as light rail construction goes in Los Angeles County (the chosen rail technology here thus far), the cost has proven in recent times to be a lot more than $23 million a mile. The least expensive of the ongoing projects is the Gold Line Foothill Extension with a $735-million budget for 11.5 miles of rail and some of the cost of building the rail car maintenance campus in Monrovia.

Planning for Expo Line in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Officials are planning to modify traffic signals along Colorado Avenue to give Expo trains priority and allow them to run every five minutes eventually. That’s potentially good news for those who plan on taking the train all the way to downtown Los Angeles (and beyond) and want speedier commutes and less waiting time for trains. It’s refreshing to see cities give signal priority to transit — as signal priority has proven to be an issue on the aforementioned Orange Line and the first phase of the Expo Line.

Remembering the designer who changed the way that we think about transit maps (The City Lab)

A nice tribute to graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, who died Tuesday at the age of 83. He was known for more minimalist designs and his map of the New York City Subway endured for most of the 1970s before being replaced with a more literal design.

Google’s next phase in driverless cars: no brakes or steering wheel (New York Times) 

With progress slow on cars that allow humans to take over driving from the computer, Google is exploring another strategy: smaller, slower cars that lack a steering wheel, brake and gas pedals and gear shifts. Most interesting sentence in the article: “The front of the car will be made from a foamlike material in case the computer fails and it hits a pedestrian.” Hmm.

No MetroCard needed (New York Times) 

A good story about the relationship between real estate and bicycling in New York City. Excerpt:

As the search for more affordable real estate in New York City pushes deeper into neighborhoods that were once considered out of the way, bicycle lanes are taking on new importance. Since 2007, the city has carved out more than 350 miles of bike lanes in the five boroughs, according to the Department of Transportation. As a result, the distance from the nearest subway or bus stop has become less of a drawback for the two-wheeled set, particularly in transit-challenged areas of Brooklyn like Red Hook, Greenpoint and parts of Bushwick. In a twist to the real estate catch phrase, location, location, location, brokers say, bicycling is beginning to influence some real estate decisions.

“Your housing options change when you buy a bike and use it,” said Lyon Porter, a sales and leasing director of Town Residential, who relied heavily on a fixed-gear Dutch cruiser when living in Williamsburg several years ago and continues to cycle frequently around the city. “People get so much more for their money in this tight, compressed market,” when freed from the need to be near a train line, he said. “Your definable boundaries are different on a bike.” Without one, he said, “your map changes.”

Southbound 405 closure between Getty Center Drive and Wilshire Boulevard night of May 28

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is scheduled to conduct a nighttime freeway closure on the southbound I-405 between Getty Center Drive and Wilshire Boulevard the night of May 28, 2014 to facilitate permanent striping of general purpose lanes and to grind and overlay new asphalt from the Sepulveda undercrossing near the Getty ramps to the Wilshire Boulevard off-ramp.  Closure information is as follows:

  • Midnight, May 28 to 5 a.m. May 29
  • Ramps will begin to close at 7 p.m. and lanes will begin to close at 10 p.m.

Ramp Closures:

Southbound on-ramp from Getty Center Drive

Southbound on-ramp from Westbound Sunset Boulevard

Southbound on-ramp from Eastbound Sunset Boulevard

Detour: Exit southbound Getty off-ramp, head southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard, make a right going west on Wilshire Boulevard to westbound Wilshire on-ramp.

What to expect:

Northbound HOV lane opened today on 405 over the Sepulveda Pass!

The HOV lane on the northbound 405 opened earlier this morning. A media event has just begun at Getty Center — we’ll have photos and video later today. Here’s the news release from Metro:

Paving the Road to a Better 405

L.A. Metro, Caltrans, Kiewit Open 10-Mile Northbound I-405 Carpool Lane between I-10 and U.S. 101

Los Angeles, Calif. – Just in time for the busy Memorial Day travel weekend, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and contractor Kieiwit Infrastructure West today officially opened the new 10-mile northbound carpool lane between the I-10 and U.S. 101, adding needed capacity to one of the nation’s busiest freeways and closing the last remaining gap in the entire I-405 carpool lane network.

The lane opening is the capstone for the massive $1.141 billion I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project which began construction in 2009. Project partners have committed to opening parts of the project as soon as they’re ready for public use.  The contractor will continue to perform some additional project work and landscaping on the freeway alignment and city streets. Key project deliverables are now open and operational.  

“Carpool lanes are a vitally important part of L.A. County’s transportation infrastructure, and nowhere are they needed more than here on the I-405, which suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in America,” said Diane Dubois, Metro Board Chair and City of Lakewood Council Member.  “While construction has been challenging for both motorists and neighboring communities, we have now successfully paved the road to a better 405.  The northbound 405 will operate more efficiently, will help reduce the duration and severity of congestion, and help us better meet the future vehicle demands within this corridor.”

The project area provides the only direct freeway connection between the San Fernando Valley and Westside. This corridor currently serves major destinations along busy Ventura Boulevard, the Getty Center, Skirball Cultural Center, Westwood, UCLA and Los Angeles International Airport, among others.  Approximately 300,000 vehicles travel on this portion of the I-405 every day,  That number is expected to grow with future vehicle demands.  

“This project is a testament to how Caltrans and Metro worked together to address a critical transportation need. The new carpool lanes on the 405 link more than 70 miles of carpool lanes from Orange County through Los Angeles County,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Instead of being stuck in traffic – burning gasoline and polluting the air – drivers can use the carpool lanes and pocket their savings for more important things.”

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New HOV lane on northbound 405 opened this morning

First look at the newly improved northbound 405. Photo: Dave Sotero/Metro

First look at the newly improved northbound 405. Photo: Dave Sotero/Metro

The contractor for the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project opened the northbound HOV lane on the 405 between the I-10 and U.S. 101 at approximately 4:30 a.m. today. Stay tuned for more info and the press release from Metro later today.

In the meantime, here’s an excellent roundup of the project.

405-Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project: it’s more than adding the HOV lane

As most of your know, the new northbound HOV lane on the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 is opening Friday. There will finally be an HOV on the north side of the freeway to match the one on the southbound side that was completed in 2002.

Obviously traffic due to construction over the past four-and-a-half years has not been a treat. The good news: the key project work is finally open and available for Memorial Day weekend travelers and regular commuters.

The work involved has been considerable since the project got underway in 2009. The work also extends far beyond adding the HOV lane. Three bridges over the 405 have been rebuilt to seismic standards and widened. And many ramps on the 405 between the 10 and 101 have been lengthened, widened and in some cases moved to better locations.

Some interesting stats, according to Metro: Enough concrete was used on the project to build four Staple Centers, enough dirt was moved to fill 100,000 dump trucks and enough rebar installed to build 15,000 Volkswagen beetles.

I know there are people reading this who will argue that it’s pointless to improve freeways because they will inevitably fill with traffic. That’s a point well taken.

On the other hand, there’s a pretty good counter-argument to be made. The first is that the 405 has not been substantially improved since it was built across the Sepulveda Pass in 1963 — when L.A. County only had six million or so residents. The county today has more than 10 million people, not to mention the growth in surrounding areas. Look at Orange County, which is traversed by the 405. In 1960, it had about 700,000 residents. It has about 3.1 million people today, according to the Census Bureau.

The status quo on the 405 prior to work beginning in 2009 was certainly not good and logic dictates that traffic conditions would just keep getting worse in coming years as the region’s population grows. Metro and Caltrans say that project capacity improvements will help meet future traffic demands in our region.

Let’s run through some of the improvements:

•Prior to the work, there was an HOV on the southbound side of the 405 between the 10 and the 101. But the northbound side didn’t have an HOV lane due to lack of funding. There will now be HOV lanes on the 405 for 36 miles in both directions between the Orange County line and the northern San Fernando Valley, where the 405 merges into the Golden State Freeway.

Metro is also studying a new express bus that would run between Westwood and the northern San Fernando Valley using the HOV lane on the 405.

Measure R also provides $1 billion in seed money for a separate transit project that would span the Sepulveda Pass. Initial studies are underway and among the alternatives being evaluated is a transit tunnel under the pass, perhaps to be accompanied by a tolled tunnel for motor traffic.

•The on- and off-ramps at Wilshire Boulevard were rebuilt with flyover ramps to eliminate bottlenecks from cars exiting the 405 mixing with cars trying to enter. The ramps were also expanded to hold more vehicles. For example, the ramp from eastbound Wilshire to the northbound 405 is 3,129-feet long — 500 feet longer than the ramp it replaced — and has 280 percent more capacity. The southbound off-ramp from the 405 to eastbound Wilshire now has 134 percent more capacity.

•The new Sunset Boulevard Bridge is higher, longer and significantly wider at 120 feet — approximately 30 feet wider than before the project. It features two additional traffic lanes and higher capacity on- and off-ramps to improve area traffic flows and reduce congestion on local streets. Motorists will now enjoy dedicated turn lanes to access freeway ramps, and motorists traveling east/west through the bridge will be able to do so more quickly.

•The new Mulholland Bridge is 10 feet wider than the one it replaced and built to modern seismic standards. A new sidewalk was added on the south side of the bridge.

•The ramp from the westbound 10 to the northbound 405 was widened and other improvements were made to ramps at the extremely busy 10-405 junction.

•The 405 on- and off-ramps that serve Skirball Center Drive were demolished and rebuilt 2,000 feet south of their former location. This should help ease the traffic crunch at the intersection of Skirball Center Drive and Mulholland and make it easier to exit and enter the freeway. The new ramps also hold more than 200 additional vehicles.

•Among other improvements: new turn lanes for those entering the 405 from Sepulveda Boulevard, new sidewalks, curbs and gutters along Sepulveda Boulevard, new bike lanes for parts of Sepulveda Boulevard, an addition of 1,200 feet to the off-ramp to Cotner, the street that motorists use to access Santa Monica Boulevard (the ramp is now 2,300 feet long).