A look back at some of the year's most popular and interesting posts on The Source

The demolition of half of the Mulholland Bridge in July. Photo by Peter Watkinson/Metro.

As 2011 winds down, the following is a look back at our more popular posts from the past year. Not surprisingly, many of the posts are from earlier in 2011, which tended to be heavy on big news.

And equally non-shocking, readers showed the most interest in posts about Metro projects either under construction or in the planning pipeline — the Expo Line, Crenshaw/LAX Line, Westside Subway Extension, Gold Line Foothill Extension, Regional Connector, ExpressLanes, Orange Line Extension and the Van Nuys Rapidway, to name a few. Many, of course, are receiving dollars from the Measure R sales tax increase that Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008.

Please feel free to comment if you feel as if the following list doesn’t reflect the big events or the real news of the past year.

The 405 freeway bone dry of cars on Carmageddon weekend. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

Transit guide to Carmageddon (July 15). No surprise here. Before the big tear-down of half the Mulholland Bridge, people were seriously concerned with getting around — especially between the San Fernando Valley and LAX. Several other posts about Carmageddon and feared traffic impacts were also among our most popular posts of the year.

Metrolink adds Angels Express trains (March 29). Metro is one of the five counties that funds the commuter rail agency that aggressively added special service trains in the past year. It’s clear to me that readers want alternative ways to travel to events around So Cal and, thus, no surprise that this post got a lot of attention.

Bus service changes for June approved by Metro Board (March 24). It was a close vote with the Board approving the changes by a 7 to 6 margin. The 300,000 hours of reductions were about 100,000 hours less than agency staff originally proposed.

Metro begins testing real-time bus arrival system (March 2). The Nextrip system gave Metro customers a way to use their computers or cell phones to see when their bus would be arriving. In the months since, most people seem to like Nextrip with some occasional complaints that it’s buggy or not working. I’ve found it works very well. Here’s the desktop version and here’s the mobile version.

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ExpressLanes signs for 110 freeway on the way

What’s all that stuff on the back of the truck? It’s the first sign for the ExpressLanes project on the 110 freeway, which is converting the existing carpool lanes between Adams Boulevard (just south of downtown L.A.) and the Artesia Transit Center to HOT lanes. The signs will be going up in the coming days.

What’s a HOT lane? Carpoolers, motorcycles and transit users will still travel for free, but single motorists — now prohibited from using the lanes — will be able to pay a toll to use them when traffic is flowing. The toll will depend on the time of day. The more traffic, the higher the toll. Signs along the freeway will inform motorists of the tolls.

The ExpressLanes on the 110 are expected to open in the early fall of next year with the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway (between Alameda Street in downtown L.A. and the 605 freeway) opening in early 2013.

The project is mostly funded with a federal grant to pay for a one-year trial run of the Express Lanes. The money is other improvements in both the 110 and 10 corridors, including a rebuilding of the El Monte Station, shown in the photo below.


Five things I'm thinking about transportation, Dec. 21 edition

BAY AREA TRAFFIC AND SMOG: I think it’s high time that other cities/regions get due credit for their lousy traffic and smog.

I was in San Francisco area this past weekend and took the above photo on a decidedly un-breezy day when San Francisco’s smog output wasn’t being blown inland to other parts of the state. Yes, San Francisco produces smog (as well as smug) — but the media doesn’t write much about it, instead focusing on the places where the smog ends up. Places such as the Central Valley and Sequoia National Park.

And while I’m on my soapbox, the Bay Area’s traffic is pretty miserable, too. But we don’t read much about that in the national press because (I’m hypothesizing) national media visiting S.F. or Silicon Valley probably stay in hotels close to their stories, whereas reporters shipped into L.A. usually have to drive to get where they’re going here in Sprawlsville.

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First Street Bridge reopens

After four long years, the westbound side of the First Street Viaduct reopened to traffic this week. The bridge was closed in order to build the Metro Gold Line extension to East Los Angeles.

The First Street Viaduct is the second oldest of the classic Los Angeles River bridges designed by city engineer Merrill Butler. While the pylons supporting the bridge were strengthened and widened, engineers also replicated the historic railing on the north side and installed 32 replicas of the bridge’s original light fixtures.

With two additional westbound lanes on the north side, it will be much easier for motorists to make the trip from Boyle Heights to downtown Los Angeles. In addition, the westbound Metro Bus Line 30 will be running service over the bridge starting tomorrow.

The bridge opening ceremony was held yesterday.

Foothill Extension continues to make progress

Work continues to proceed well on the “Iconic Bridge” for the Gold Line Foothill Extension that will bring the Gold Line from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border. The photo above shows one of the supports for the bridge that will carry the tracks from the middle of the 210 freeway toward downtown Arcadia.

After the jump is a “year in review” piece by the Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the project that Metro will operate. The line is scheduled for completion in 2015 and is being paid for with the Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

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Regional Connector environmental study update

Update on the Regional Connector Final EIS/EIR:  It looks like the release date for the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the Regional Connector project will be in early January with a 30-day review period to follow.

Under that schedule, the Metro Board of Directors would consider approving the FEIS/R at their February meeting.

Once released, the document can be viewed and downloaded by visiting www.metro.net/regionalconnector.

The Regional Connector, to be funded in part by Measure R, will connect the Blue Line, Gold Line and future Expo Line to allow for seamless light rail travel through downtown Los Angeles.

First look: transponders for Metro's ExpressLanes project

And there it is above: the transponders that motorists will need to use the future ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways.

The project is converting the carpool lanes on sections of both roads — see the map after the jump — to “High-Occupancy Toll” lanes, known more commonly as HOT lanes.

Those who currently use the carpool lanes won’t be charged a toll. When traffic is moving and there’s sufficient space in the lanes, other motorists will be able to use the lanes in exchange for a toll. The price of the toll will rise and fall depending on the level of demand.

There will be two HOT lanes in each direction on both the 10 and 110 and the hope is that this one-year experiment — funded by the federal government — will help speed up traffic and transit use across the entire freeway by better distributing vehicles across all lanes. The ExpressLanes on the 110 are scheduled to open in the early fall of 2012 with the lanes on the 10 to open in early 2013.

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Metro Board of Directors meets tomorrow

The Metro Board of Directors holds their final meeting of the year tomorrow at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters next to Los Angeles Union Station. The meeting, as always, is open to the public.

Here’s the agenda. A few items worth watching:

•(Item 11) The Board will consider amending an existing joint development agreement with Taylor Yards — along the L.A. River — to increase the number of apartments for the site and reduce the number of for-sale condos.

•(Item 35) The Board will consider approving a motion by Board Member Don Knabe to add an at-grade Westchester station near the intersection of Florence Avenue and Hindry to the Crenshaw/LAX Line on the condition the contractor with the winning bid on the project can build the station within the project’s budget of about $1.7 billion. The Board will also consider adding a pecking order for additional stations: if a contractor could only build one additional station under their bid, a Leimert Park station would come first.

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Panels Rupture on 405 project retaining wall, no threat to public safety

Several media outlets have reported on a visible defect in a retaining wall now being constructed as part of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project in the Sepulveda Pass.  Panels on a localized segment of the retaining wall at the future Skirball Drive on-ramp became displaced late last week. This section of the retaining wall has since been stabilized, and poses no safety risk for either freeway or street traffic.  The contractor is now performing an investigation.  Here’s additional information from a project e-mail that went out to 405 project constituents:

A MSE (Mechanically Supported Engineering) retaining wall, located along the southbound I-405 at Mountain Gate, suffered a localized failure on Thursday, December 1.  The failure occurred on Caltrans right-of-way, west of the freeway, in our construction zone.  No one was injured and our geotechnical team deemed the freeway and Sepulveda safe for the traveling public.  Traffic has not been restricted at this location.

The wall, approximately 2,000 feet long, is part of the work to relocate the Skirball Center Dr on-ramps south of their present location on the Skirball bridge.  The portion of the wall that has been compromised is only 20 feet long.  The project has been aware of deficiencies in this portion of the wall for a few weeks and were preparing a partial deconstruction plan when the panels failed.  The wall has been stabilized and there is no danger to the traveling public.  The contractor is currently performing an in-depth investigation to the cause of the localized failure.  Experts have been brought in to collect forensic evidence.  We cannot speculate at this time as to what caused the failure.  Once a thorough and complete investigation has been finalized and approved by Metro and Caltrans, the contractor will create a mitigation plan.

Until the investigation is complete, work on the other MSE walls along the project has been halted.  Our path forward will be determined by the outcome of the investigation.

We appreciate your patience during this investigation.  Please be assured that safety is our number one priority and we will work until we can guarantee that all work on the project is safe and stable.