Metro to hold public meetings on project to connect to LAX

A people mover at George Bush Airport in Houston.

As many readers know, Metro is planning to build a light rail station at Aviation and Century boulevards that will serve trains on the Crenshaw/LAX Line and some Green Line trains. But it will still be 1.3 miles from the Aviation/Century station to the first airport terminal (and a longer distance to the other terminals), one reason that Measure R included  up to $200 million for a project called “Green Line Extension to Los Angeles International Airport.”

How to get people to the airport from the light rail station?

LAX — a city of Los Angeles agency — is studying a people mover project to connect the airport to the Crenshaw/LAX line as part of its specific plan amendment process.

There has also been a lot of talk — much of it coming from the L.A. City Council — about extending rail all the way to the airport terminals. As we posted earlier this year, Metro is now launching its own study to determine the best way to connect Metro Rail to the airport, including the people mover (Metro will be working with LAX on this aspect of the study).

Here’s the news release issued today about upcoming public meetings:

Metro will host three community workshop meetings in late August to introduce community stakeholders to a study underway examining ways to connect the growing Metro Rail system to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The focus of the study is a four square mile area bounded by La Cienega Boulevard on the east, Manchester Avenue to the north, Imperial Highway to the south, and the LAX airport terminals on the west. Initial alternatives under consideration include Light Rail Transit (LRT), Automated People Mover (APM) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Metro is currently analyzing the various options for each transit type in order to narrow down the number of alternatives that will be carried forward to the environmental review phase.

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Two draft environmental reports are released for high-speed rail segments in San Joaquin Valley

It’s a milestone of sorts: after years of talk, talk and more talk, the California High-Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday released two draft environmental impact studies on two segments of the bullet train project: Merced-to-Fresno and Fresno-to-Bakersfield (shown above).

The Authority — the state agency charged with planning and building the project — has said it hopes to break ground on a stretch of track in the Valley next year. Whether that will happen is hard to say — there’s a lot of politics and funding issues in play here — but nothing can happen until the project is environmentally cleared and route options are narrowed to a final choice. The 45-day public comment period on the reports begins Aug. 15.

The Fresno Bee has a good writeup on the release of the studies. Excerpt:

The first two stretches of California’s proposed high-speed train system in the San Joaquin Valley would close dozens of roads, displace hundreds of homes and businesses, affect thousands of acres of farmland, and cost billions more to build than originally anticipated.

But environmental impact reports released Tuesday for the Merced-to-Fresno and Fresno-to-Bakersfield segments say the statewide project would save more than $100 billion in new and expanded freeways and airport construction over the next 25 years, reduce automobile traffic and help improve air quality in the Valley and the state.

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Farmers Field study will include look at public transit in the area

Click above to enlarge. The football stadium would be just west of Staples Center (the round building). The Blue Line station at Pico/Flower is noted by the blue marker in the lower center of the photo. Credit: Google Maps.

As many of you know, the City Council today approved a Memorandum of Understanding with AEG to build a new football stadium, new convention hall space and two parking garages adjacent to Staples Center.

The good news for public transportation is that if indeed the stadium gets built — and it’s contingent on an NFL team agreeing to relocate to Los Angeles — there is plenty of public transportation nearby.

The present Blue Line station at Flower and Pico is a short walk from Staples Center, L.A. Live and the proposed location for the football station. as are many bus lines, including the Silver Line. It should also be noted that the Expo Line will stop at that Blue Line station, as well as future Regional Connector trains that will make it possible to board a train there and travel to Long Beach, Santa Monica, East Los Angeles and Azusa when the Connector, Expo Line Phase II and Gold Line Foothill Extension are built.

The Red/Purple Line subway station is about a .6-mile walk, with connections to Union Station (connections with Metrolink and Amtrak), North Hollywood and — hopefully within the decade — Westwood.

Metro staffers tell me that they’re coordinating with the city of Los Angeles and the stadium sponsors in the evaluation of the project; transportation needs will be studied as part of the stadium’s environmental impact report.

Subway Facts & History, part 2

This is the second part in The Source’s new series called “Subway Facts & History” to address some of the issues generating discussion involving the Westside Subway Extension project. The facts below are based on information from Metro staff and consultants planning the project. The information, in various forms, has already been publicly released. 

One of the complications of planning any major project in greater Los Angeles is dealing with the fact that we live in earthquake country — as the above map shows. It’s one thing to build something so that it will be safe when the ground shakes in an earthquake. It’s quite another thing to build for earthquake safety when you are sitting directly atop an active fault.

The issue for the Westside Subway Extension is the presence of the active Santa Monica Fault in the Century City area where it runs beneath Santa Monica Boulevard. The location of the fault has two potential impacts: It could affect where the Century City station is built, as well as the location and orientation of the tunnels in that area.

Two basic routes for the subway between western Beverly Hills and Century City are being studied as part of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report. One route would run under Santa Monica Boulevard to reach a station under that street. The other would run south of there and go under parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus to reach a station beneath Constellation Boulevard.

Here are some facts:

•As part of the environmental impact studies for the Westside Subway Extension, Metro is conducting geotechnical field tests to learn more about seismic characteristics in the Beverly Hills, Century City & Westwood areas

•A strand of the Santa Monica Fault appears to extend under the Los Angeles Country Club and beneath Santa Monica Boulevard from somewhere between Century Park East and Avenue of the Stars and extending west until it begins to turn away from Santa Monica Boulevard somewhere near Westwood Boulevard.

•In addition to the Santa Monica Fault, Metro is also trying to better understand another possible seismic feature, the West Beverly Hills Lineament, which runs north-south through the western part of Beverly Hills near the Beverly Hills High School.

•One way of reducing the risk from an earthquake is for the tunnels to cross the fault in a perpendicular manner rather than run parallel to it, thereby limiting the tunnel’s exposure to the fault.

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Source interview: Metrolink CEO John Fenton

John Fenton became the CEO of Metrolink in April 2010. He wasted little time launching a series of improvements for the commuter railway that serves six counties in Southern California and is funded partially by Metro. 

Among his first goals: continuing the agency’s pursuit of a satellite-based anti-collision system, reducing fuel use, increasing on-time performance and trying to hold the line on fare increases. In the past few months, Metrolink introduced late-night service, express trains and trains for special events, such as the U2 shows in Anaheim and the summer season at Del Mar race track outside San Diego. It also introduced a $10 all-you-can-ride weekend fare that has proven to be very popular. 

A native of Bloomington, Indiana, and a former Navy radioman, Fenton came to Metrolink after holding a series of prominent jobs in the freight railroad industry. I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with him about a few topics that especially interested me — how to speed up trains and increase ridership. The L.A. Times this past weekend also ran a good profile of Fenton by reporter Dan Weikel that focuses on the many changes at Metrolink since the Sept. 2008 Chatsworth crash that killed 25. 

Here’s my interview: 

A lot of people seem to be riding the new express trains and special events trains. Are we going to see more of that from Metrolink?

I think we have to try new products. If you look at the traditional approach taken by Metrolink, it was very much a local commuter-type train operation. I’ve worked in different parts of the country and you look at the role express trains play in Chicago and other parts of the country and it’s a big part of their service.

It amazed me in a city the size of L.A. that we didn’t offer a different type of service such as express trains. The other thing that struck me is that this is maybe the event capital maybe of the world — we have all these events and I have all this capacity on trains that’s available on weekends and at night.

And look at how people are responding. The train to the U2 concerts in Anaheim had 11,000 people using them over two days. Most of those people were brand new riders. They got on our trains and 40 minutes later they were in the parking lot of Anaheim stadium. You can’t do that in a car in rush hour.

We felt like we sold them something that they can’t get anywhere else: time.

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Board reaffirms support for high-speed rail route through Antelope Valley

With no discussion, a motion officially supporting an Antelope Valley route for California’s high-speed rail route was unanimously approved by the Metro Board today.

The motion was by Member Mike Antonovich, who pointed out that many residents who voted for the high-speed rail bond in 2008 believed the route would go through the Antelope Valley and have a station in Palmdale.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority that is planning the project recently started to re-study an alternative route along the 5 freeway that would bypass the Antelope Valley.

That was the last major item heard by the Board, which has now moved into the closed session part of its meeting today.

Work on Gold Line Foothill Extension bridge continues

The top photo was taken in March before work began on the Gold Line bridge over the eastbound lanes of the 210 freeway. The bottom photo was taken yesterday — Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Here’s the update sent out today by Foothill Extension Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian:

Work on the Iconic Freeway Structure has begun. As you have seen over the last few weeks, the center median of the eastbound I-210 is clear and the 500-foot-long retaining wall is well on its way to completion. The retaining  wall is the first step in the construction process, creating the needed wide flat surface for the large construction equipment to access the construction area. Below, are two images – the first was taken in March 2011, before construction began; and the second was taken yesterday:

As construction continues in the coming weeks, the wall will be completed, and then work will begin on the 110 foot deep foundations. That will be the first time a late night full closure of the eastbound lanes will be needed.  We will provide advanced notice of those activities.

The Gold Line Foothill Extension will extend the Gold Line from Pasadena for 11.5 miles to the Azusa/Glendora border. The project is being funded by Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008 and is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Ventilation test today and Thursday on Expo Line — the smoke is just a test

Here’s the news release:

Metro today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will conduct a ventilation test on the Expo light rail line, inside the trench between Jefferson Boulevard at Flower Street and Expo Park/USC Station at Exposition Boulevard. The testing will continue Thursday, August 4, under the same schedule. Residents, pedestrians and motorists, should be aware that smoke may be visible at street level but it is odorless and not toxic.

Failure to fund FAA could delay Crenshaw/LAX Line environmental document

Congress has finished up its work on the U.S. economy and is preparing to flee Washington for their summer recess, which some people — such as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — are calling a “vacation.”

One tiny little thing: Congress still hasn’t reauthorized the Federal Aviation Administration. Because the Crenshaw/LAX light rail project will pass near the south runway at LAX, the FAA is supposed to be reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report (FEIS/R) for the project.

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