Some good news out of Washington today: Metro received word that $9.7 million in federal funding for the Wilshire bus lane project has been secured. The project, approved by the Metro Board of Directors this past spring, will add 7.7 miles of peak hour bus lanes to portions of Wilshire, mostly within the city of Los Angeles.
The $9.7 million is the first of two installments that Metro is expected to receive in $23.3 million of Very Small Starts funding, a program run by the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for transit projects. Attentive readers will recall there was concern during the project’s planning stages that shortening the lanes slightly could impact federal funding but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Construction of the lanes is expected to start next year, with an opening date scheduled for 2013. Here’s the news release from Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein:
Feinstein, Boxer Announce $9.7 Million for Bus Rapid Transit in Los Angeles
Will create dedicated bus lanes along Wilshire Boulevard
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) today announced a $9.7 million grant for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to enhance bus rapid transit on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
This award was the result of funding that Senator Feinstein secured in the fiscal year 2009 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
Below is an early analysis from Metro’s government affairs staff of the debt-ceiling compromise before Congress. Not surprisingly, it includes cuts in federal transportation spending:
The House and Senate are set to vote today on legislation that reduces our national deficit, raises the debt ceiling and avoids a technical default by the U.S. Treasury Department. The plan agreed upon last night by the House and Senate leaders and the White House has two parts or phases – with the initial impact being a nearly $1 trillion reduction in the national deficit and an increase of $900 billion in the debt ceiling. The second part of the bill would empower a joint congressional committee with the task of securing an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling by a similar amount. Should the joint congressional committee fail to achieve significant debt reductions, the bill being considered today includes trigger mechanisms that would force across the board spending cuts.
Below is the latest update from the Expo Line Construction Authority. For those interested, the More Than Red Cars blog already caught some photos of trains along Flower Street.
Passengers buy tickets at NoHo Red Line station. Photo by flickr user sicoactiva.
By now reality is setting in: We need to dramatically increase our investment in transportation infrastructure just to maintain the status quo. But it looks like Congress isn’t willing to do it, at least in the near future.
One might think that we’re sitting pretty in Los Angeles County thanks to Measure R — we’ve definitely got it better than some other regions — but federal largess also plays a big role in getting projects built here. Without it, L.A. and other cities throughout the state are going to have to find new sources of funding to help keep transit running and make down payments on future transit projects.
That’s the issue that a team of researchers from UCLA and Berkeley’s respective environmental law programs tackled in their report, “All Aboard: How California Can Increase Investments in Public Transit” [PDF].
Here is the email that went out this afternoon from Foothill Extension Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian to project supporters about the selection of a contractor to build the 11.5-mile line from Pasadena to Azusa:
Today, the Authority staff and evaluators had the opportunity to make the case that Kiewit Parsons was the right team to build the Pasadena to Azusa extension. The Construction Authority board of directors considered the award of the Alignment contract at today’s Special Board Meeting and unanimously concurred with my recommendation, authorizing execution of a $486 million design and construction contract with the joint-venture team. The contract will include final design and construction of all aspects of the 11.5-mile extension, with the exception of the (already underway) Iconic Freeway Structure and future station parking facilities.
With the news today that a contractor has been selected to build the Gold Line Foothill Extension, I wanted to post a few photos and drawings of the project. Please feel free to use on your own blog, website, etc!
A rendering of the rail bridge to be built over the eastbound side of the 210 freeway in Arcadia.
An aerial view of the bridge location. The bridge is needed to take the tracks from the freeway median to the south side of the road.
Big news this afternoon on a key Measure R transit project: A $485.9-million contract has been awarded to a joint venture of two firms, Kiewit and Parsons, to build the 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border.
The contract approved by the Board of the Foothill Extension Construction Authority means that work in earnest should begin on the line in 2012 with a scheduled opening of 2015. It’s a big victory for Foothill community residents in the San Gabriel Valley who live far removed from both the current terminus of the Gold Line in eastern Pasadena and Metrolink service.
The Foothill Extension will have stations in downtown Arcadia and Azusa, as well as a station near downtown Monrovia. The Duarte station is across the street from the City of Hope, the Irwindale station is adjacent to a major industrial park and the final station is next to Citrus College and Azusa Pacific University.
A separate contract to build a bridge to carry the Gold Line tracks from the median of the 210 freeway into Arcadia has already been awarded to Skanska. Work on the bridge is currently underway.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize the haggling — a nice term — in Congress over raising the U.S. debt ceiling and huge federal budget cuts probably doesn’t bode well for many programs, such as transportation. That’s a bad thing, because transit agencies across the U.S. — including Metro — depend deeply on federal dollars for an array of needs.
Here’s the latest update from the ongoing brouha in Washington from Metro’s government relations staff:
Debt-Ceiling Negotiations In Washington, DC May Impact Future Federal Transportation Funds
Bills introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to address the debt-ceiling facing the U.S. Treasury would not create separate discretionary categories for either federal highways and transit programs. The practical effect of this is that both highway and transit programs would have to struggle for discretionary budget authority under the overall caps established by both the Boehner and Reid bills. The exact effect of eliminating the separate discretionary categories [which were enacted in 1998 by the U.S. Congress] for highways and transit is unclear, though it is fair to assume that the end result will be less robust federal transportation programs. Both bills would cap new budget discretionary spending through 2021. We will continue to closely be engaged in discussions with Members of Congress to aggressively advocate for a strong federal commitment to both its highway and transit programs.
Here are a few images from photographer Gary Leonard’s pictorial on how the south half of the Mulholland Bridge came down the weekend of July 15 to 17. Above is a shot showing what the bridge looked like last Friday afternoon.
The demolition began the evening of Friday, July 15, when work crews began closing freeway on- and off-ramps.
Two very large light plants and some 12 regular light plants turn night into day in the area surrounding the Mulholland Bridge.
I wanted to point readers to a Metro staff report from earlier this month that looks at the six-year federal transportation spending bill being floated by Republicans in the House of Representatives.
And it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of what the bill would do to Metro: big-time spending cuts. If Metro were to lose 30 percent of its federal funding for the next six years, here are the $1.44 billion in cuts it would have to make to its capital spending:
•Cut $240 million in operating funds.
•Cut $260 million in bus purchases.
•Cut $70 million in rail vehicle purchases.
•Cut $70 million in paratransit vehicle purchases.
*Cut $400 million in rail system repairs.
•Cut $400 million in highway improvement projects.
It’s a tough issue because the bill, as proposed by Rep. John Mica (R-Florida) does include some provisions needed for America Fast Forward — the changes in law Metro is seeking to accelerate the building of Measure R transit projects.
It’s also worth noting that the bill has an uphill battle. Republicans may control the House, but Senates are in the majority in the Senate and a Democrat is occupying the White House and there’s this little election thing next year. The cuts shown above wouldn’t just hit Metro hard, they would also impact spending plans by many other big transit agencies in urban areas, where voters often lean toward Democrats.