Service Advisory: expect minor delays on Expo Line this weekend due to Phase 2 construction

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Crews will work to relocate tracks so they can be used for Expo Line Phase 2.

The Expo Line Construction Authority will be conducting track integration work on Expo Line Phase 2 this weekend, which will result in minor delays on the Expo Line. Trains will share one track between Expo/La Brea and Culver City stations at various times between 7 a.m. and 5.p.m this Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18.

Over the weekend, crews will be working to relocate tracks so they can be used for the Phase 2 aerial structure over Venice Boulevard.

For live service updates, follow Metro on Twitter or check the Metro home page. You can also check out the latest construction photos on Expo Line Phase 2 in this previous post.

Metro currently has three rail projects under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Utility relocations on two more rail projects, the Regional Connector and Purple Line, are underway and heavy construction is expected to begin later this year on both. All are funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

More pics of recent work on the Expo Line Phase 2

Retired Metro scheduler Alan Weeks was gracious enough to send along the above photos that he has taken recently of construction along the six-mile alignment of the second phase of the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica.

The project is funded by Measure R and at this time is forecast to open in early 2016.

The Expo Line Construction Authority — an independent agency — is building the project. Metro will take ownership of the line when it is complete and operate it. The Authority estimates that it will be a 46-minute ride between downtown Santa Monica and 7th/Metro Center.

Metro currently has three rail projects under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Utility relocations on two more rail projects, the Regional Connector and Purple Line, are underway and heavy construction is expected to begin later this year on both. All are funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

New light-rail car makes its first public appearance

Here’s a peek at the first Metro P3010 prototype rail car operating under power on the Kinkisharyo test track in Osaka, Japan. Note that it’s decked out in chic new colors that are attractive as well as eminently visible. And those colors will be enhanced, in the final design, with reflective side graphics.

A solo rail car traveling down a track may not seem all that engaging but to those of us counting the minutes until the new Kinkisharyo rail cars arrive, this video is pretty exciting.

The cars are much needed for the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa. Expo 2 and Foothill are scheduled to open in early 2016; underscoring the need for new cars.

When a previous agreement with AnsaldoBreda — the Italian contractor originally hired to manufacture Metro Rail cars — failed, the car construction process was set back about two years. But Kikisharyo is working aggressively to deliver the cars quickly and to ensure they are of the highest quality.

As the test video indicates, car construction is carefully watched. Testing begins even before the cars are assembled, with progress monitored throughout design and construction. Currently, Metro staff is watching over something called “the floor fire test” (We can pretty much guess what that means) along with operation of the prototype vehicle.

All systems — a car is composed of numerous systems — must be tested and pass before the car can be delivered. But you can’t mess around with a rail car that must safely carry thousands throughout its hopefully long lifetime.

If all goes well in testing, this car and 23 others will arrive in L.A. by the end of 2015. After that, the cars will arrive at a rate of four per month until the contract for 78 new vehicles is complete. Metro has already exercised two of four options to buy an additional 97 vehicles to be used on other projects — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector and fleet replacement. Final assembly of the rail cars will be at a new facility in Palmdale in the Antelope Valley

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New rail car designs in the works

Metro currently has three rail projects under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Work on two more rail projects, the Regional Connector and Purple Line, is expected to begin later this year. All are funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles..

Clear view of ‘City of Angels:’ Union Station mural refreshed

Specialized Metro Art staff work on the mural from a temporary scaffolding above escalators to contain dust particles, and not hinder the flow of transit patrons below.

Specialized Metro Art staff work on the mural from a temporary scaffolding above escalators in Union Station’s west portal to the Red/Purple Line to contain dust particles, and not hinder the flow of transit patrons below.

Following a recent maintenance effort, the artwork LA: City of Angels, a mural by Los Angeles based artist Cynthia Carlson, has returned to its original heavenly splendor.

Located in Union Station West and facing the entrance to the Red/Purple Line, LA: City of Angels was installed in 1993 in the early years of the Metro Art program. To keep it looking bright and new, specialized Metro Art staff thoroughly cleaned the mural using wet and dry techniques.

“Metro’s art program is now in its 25th year and many of our artworks from the early years require cleaning, restoration and other maintenance,” explained Creative Services Manager Angelene Campuzano. “It’s gratifying to be able to maintain the integrity of the artwork that artists have so thoughtfully contributed to our system and make it look as vibrant as when it was first installed–in this case, 1993.”

Maintaining artwork in the heavily trafficked space of a rail station requires support from and close coordination with Metro departments. “Metro Wayside Facilities staff have been incredibly supportive to our program and our efforts to maintain the aesthetics of the transit environment for our customers,” Campuzano added.

Some before and after views of the mural are below:

Before cleaning, detail.

Before cleaning, detail. The 40 foot long mural by Cynthia Carlson is located in Union Station’s West portal to the Red/Purple Line.

After cleaning, detail.

After cleaning, detail. The mural surface, painted aluminum honeycomb panels, was thoroughly cleaned using wet and dry techniques.

LA: City of Angels before maintenance work.

LA: City of Angels before maintenance work.

LA: City of Angels after maintenance work.

LA: City of Angels after maintenance work. The project also included full replacement of all overhead entrance lighting.

Bikes and walking + transit = lower greenhouse gas emissions

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I thought that posting the above chart would be a nice way to begin Bike Week. As the chart neatly shows, taking transit can be an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases — especially those who bike or walk to and from light rail stations. It makes sense: no fossil fuels are needed to power your legs.

The chart is from Metro’s  First Mile/Last Mile Strategic Plan that was adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in April.

Greenhouse gases, of course, are the primary agents for climate change. As the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases from the burning of fossil fuels increases in our atmosphere, the planet is growing warmer. Here’s a good explanation of the basics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The reduction of important topic given how much climate change has been in the news lately. The White House released a report last week on the ongoing impacts in the United States from climate change, including warmer temperatures, increased rains and flooding in some areas, drought in others and more intense wildfires and tree die-offs due to insects. The report followed one by the United Nations released in March that found the same phenomenon on a global level.

The state of California, too, agrees there are impacts and we’re already seeing them:

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There are some important caveats when it comes to figuring out greenhouse gas emissions from transit. One involves how a project is built. It helps to have a green construction policy to help curtail pollution from trucks and other heavy equipment (and Metro does have such a policy). Even more important: the number of people riding a train or bus. The more people riding, the more efficient buses and trains are. (See this Duke University study comparing passenger per mile emissions from a bus getting 2.33 mpg versus a car that gets 25 mpg).

Metro’s numbers are based on a study looking at the Gold Line and Orange Line published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters in 2013 by researchers from UCLA, Arizona State University and UC Berkeley. The Federal Transit Administration in 2010 also published a useful guide to comparing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and public transit. The FTA’s work shows that heavy rail transit (typically subways such as Metro’s Red/Purple Line that use bigger, heavier trains) are even more efficient than buses and light rail, due in part to heavier ridership.

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Long-term closure of Mountain Avenue at Duarte Road in Duarte begins Monday for Gold Line work

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Here is the construction notice 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. The project is largely funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008:

WHO:  Residents / Commuters / Business Owners in the Cities of Monrovia and Duarte.

WHAT: Crews will be constructing grade crossing and intersection improvements on Mountain Avenue in phases north and south of Duarte Road, as part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project. The first phase of work, beginning next Monday, May 12, will require a full closure of Mountain Ave. from the center of Duarte Road north (see map) for five months.

To prepare the street for the long-term closure, the intersection of Mountain Ave. and Duarte Road will be closed to thru-traffic in all directions this weekend, beginning tomorrow night, Friday, May 9 at 9 p.m., thru Sunday, May 11 at 5 p.m. After the prep work, Duarte Road will re-open to one lane of traffic in each direction; while Mountain Ave. from the center of Duarte Road north will remain closed for five months. Following completion of the northern improvements, the southern portion of the intersection will be closed for approximately three months.

WHEN: Mountain Avenue will be closed in phases as described below:

Friday, May 9, 2014 at 9:00 p.m. to Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.*: The intersection of Mountain Ave. and Duarte Road will be fully closed to thru-traffic in all directions and motorists will be detoured around the closure. At 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 11, Duarte Road will re-open to one lane in each direction. Mountain Ave. will remain closed from the center of Duarte Road north through the railroad crossing for approximately five months (see next bullet).

•(Next Monday) Phase 1 – May 12, 2014 through October 2014*: Mountain Ave. will be closed to thru-traffic from the center of Duarte Road north through the railroad crossing. Duarte Road will remain open, one lane in each direction for eastbound / westbound thru-traffic.

•Phase 2 – October 2014 through Early 2015*: Mountain Ave. will be closed to thru-traffic from the center of Duarte Road south through the intersection. Duarte Road will remain open, one lane in each direction for eastbound / westbound thru-traffic.

The phased closures will be in place 24-hours per day, 7 days per week. Standard construction work hours are 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Note: Occasional longer hours, work on weekends, and/or night work may be performed to complete this work. (*Construction schedules are subject to change).

WHERE: Mountain Ave. – north and south of Duarte Road.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

•Detour routes will be in place during the closures and signage will be posted to direct motorists (see map).

•Pedestrian access will be available through a temporary pedestrian crossing adjacent to the work zone.

•Occasional full closures of the intersection will be implemented to set-up traffic control devices at the beginning and end of each construction phase.

• In addition to the improvements at the railroad crossing, and the realignment of the Mountain Ave./Duarte Road intersection, construction will also include new storm drains, traffic signals, sidewalks and crosswalks.

•Access to all local businesses on Mountain Avenue and Duarte Road will remain open at all times during the street construction.

•Bus stops in this vicinity may be temporarily relocated. For information about:

•MTA bus services call (323) GO-METRO (323-466-3876) or www.metro.net.

•Foothill Transit bus services call (800) RIDE-INFO (800-743-3463) or www.foothilltransit.org.

•Duarte Transit local services call (626) 358-9627 or www.accessduarte.com.

•Monrovia Transit local services call (626) 358-3538 or www.cityofmonrovia.org/planning/page/monrovia-transit

FOR MORE INFORMATION

•Visit www.foothillextension.org

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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.

LADWP to implement 24-hour lane closure on southbound Crenshaw Boulevard this weekend

Here’s the announcement from the Crenshaw/LAX Line project team:

In order to continue advanced utility relocation for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will implement a 24-hour southbound lane closure on Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition Boulevard and Rodeo Road to relocate an existing water line.  

The work is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, and continue to 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 11. 

•There will be only one southbound lane open on Crenshaw Boulevard starting at 10 p.m. Saturday night for a 24-hour period.

•Crenshaw Boulevard is scheduled to reopen by 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 11. 

•Northbound Crenshaw Boulevard will not be impacted by the water line relocation.

•Emergency access will be maintained throughout this operation.

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project is a light rail line that will run between the Expo Line and Green Line. The $2.058 billion Measure R transit project will serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Inglewood, Westchester and the LAX area with eight new stations, a maintenance facility and park and ride lots.

For more information on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project visit metro.net/crenshaw or by emailing crenshawcorridor@metro.net, by phone at (213) 922.2736 or on social media at facebook.com/crenshawrail or twitter.com/crenshawrail.

About Metro

Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that operates 2,000 buses and six rail lines in Los Angeles and also serves as the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County. Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is also overseeing construction of dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by the half-cent Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008.  Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetrotwitter.com/metrolosangeles and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

Video and podcast from Zocalo Public Square’s forum last night on the 710 freeway

Above is both video and a podcast from Zocalo Public Square’s forum at MOCA on Wednesday evening that was titled “What does Southern California need from the 710 freeway?”

The forum — which was sponsored by Metro — focused on the 4.5-mile gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena and the ongoing study by Caltrans and Metro that seeks to improve traffic congestion in the area.

The project’s draft environmental document is scheduled for release next February and is considering five alternatives: a freeway tunnel to close the gap, a light rail line between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena, traffic signal and intersection improvements in the 710 area and the legally-required no-build option. The project is scheduled to receive $780 million in Measure R funding, although additional money would be needed to build some of the more expensive alternatives — if, in fact, the Metro Board of Directors ultimately decides to build anything.

NBC-4’s n moderated the panel that included Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Linda S. Adams, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) executive director Hasan Ikhrata and UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies director Brian Taylor. I thought Nolan framed the 710 issue well, calling it a “Gordian knot” and that “I’ve never seen a transportation issue as convolutedly complicated as this one.” 

As the panelists pointed out several times, the 710 discussion goes back to the 1950s and original state plans to complete the 710 between Long Beach and Pasadena. Less than half of the state’s original freeway plans for our region was built — the reason, for example, that the 2 freeway ends at Glendale Boulevard and the Marina Freeway only exists west of the 405. As Brian Taylor noted, however, the 710 remains somewhat unique among the unfinished freeways because while there are uncompleted segments, there are very few areas where there is such a pronounced gap.

What to be done about it? Both Toebben and Ikhrata said that closing the gap made the most sense and would take traffic off surface streets in the western San Gabriel Valley, help improve air quality (the freeway would keep traffic moving instead of sitting and idling) and would likely also ease congestion on other freeways that motorists use to skirt the 710 gap, most notably the 110 and 5 freeways. “It’s more expensive to do nothing,” Ikhrata said, adding that billions of dollars were lost in travel delays.

When Toebben was asked if motorists would be willing to pay a toll to use the tunnel, his answer was a simple “yes.” He later noted that he lives near Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena and sees motorists each day use it as a way to close the 710 gap by using Orange Grove, the 110 freeway and the 5 freeway to get back to the 710. “Am I willing to pay three, four bucks — I don’t know what the cost will be — to avoid those other routes and get off those freeways so that others who need to travel those freeways, can? Yes, I’m willing to do that. I’d venture to say that every single person who lives anywhere close to this freeway, and I’m including myself, will see less traffic on their streets if a tunnel was built than they see right now.”

UCLA’s Taylor took the most nuanced and expansive view, first explaining the basic mechanics of freeway traffic congestion when commuters and those running errands compete for too little physical space on roadways (go to the 29 minute mark of the video). The result: throughput of the roads drops dramatically and a traffic jam ensues. He also pointed out that Measure R half-cent sales tax increase spreads the cost of mobility to everyone, whether they are using the mobility or not.

With that in mind, Taylor said that solving traffic congestion on a regional level could be done today if the area so choose with congestion pricing — i.e. tolling roadways so that motorists paid the true cost of driving (air pollution, freeway expansion, travel delays). That would drop demand for road space down to reasonable levels and allow traffic to free-flow instead of idle along. “Let’s argue about whether to close the gap or not, because we want to make sure that we never want to price people’s travel…if we did we would have a free flowing system,” Taylor said. “[But] that’s politically unacceptable.”

There was a brief Q&A session after the main discussion and it was pretty clear that some in the audience felt their view was missing: that closing the gap with a freeway tunnel would ultimately lead to more traffic and air pollution. And some of the questions revealed (yet again) the depth of the disagreements over this issue: when one audience member asked why building a rail line for freight from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was not being considered, SCAG’s Ikhrata replied that building a freight rail line to Pasadena made little sense as most freight from the ports moves east, not north.

Here’s an article on Zocalo Public Square’s website. And here’s the SR-710 Study home page.