Reminder: Metro Board of Directors meet tomorrow — station name changes to be considered

The final Thursday of the month is upon us, meaning the full Metro Board of Directors will convene at Metro HQ in downtown Los Angeles tomorrow at 9 a.m. for their regular meeting. The meeting, of course, is open to the public; the Metro building is adjacent to Union Station.

Here’s the agenda, along with links to staff reports and motions related to the various items.

As Board meetings go, this one doesn’t appear to be action-packed. Most of the items are administrative in nature — there are no big-ticket project approvals as we’ve seen in prior months.

Thumbing through the agenda, four items stand out — the links below are to staff reports:

•The Board will vote on whether to make the following name changes to Metro rail and bus stations:

A. “Imperial/Wilmington/Rosa Parks” to “Willowbrook/Rosa Parks;”

B. “103rd Street/Kenneth Hahn” to “103rd St/Watts Towers/Kenneth Hahn;”

C. “Vermont Av/I-105″ to “Vermont Av/Athens;”

D. “Hawthorne Bl/I-105″ to “Hawthorne Bl/Lennox;”

E. “Venice/Robertson” to “Culver City;”and

F. “Artesia Transit Center” to “Harbor Gateway Transit Center.”

Here’s an earlier post about that issue.

Keep reading for more items and a map of potential bus rapid transit corridors in the county.

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Downtown L.A. Streetcar alternatives released; community meeting coming next Thursday

The Metro team studying the possible resurrection of streetcar service in downtown Los Angeles has released a briefing package [PDF] that details the seven routes now under consideration and compares the pros and cons of each.

Metro planners have been winnowing potential routes — “alternatives” in planner speak — since this spring. For those who are new to the project, The Source attended the project kickoff meeting last May and had this recap, which covers the basics. Here’s an excerpt:

Metro staff members began the meeting by bringing the audience up to speed on a project whose conceptual roots go back to the mid-1990s. In short, Metro was brought on last year to head up the environmental planning process on behalf of the city of Los Angeles and the non-profit Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc., which are working to secure funding for the $125-million dollar project.

In March 2011, the city of L.A. and its Community Redevelopment Agency allocated seed money — including funds from the city’s Measure R local return funds — to pay for preliminary engineering, continued community outreach and other planning work.

[...]

The primary goal for the project is to enhance connections between downtown’s principal residential and commercial activity centers, including South Park, Bunker Hill and the Broadway corridor, among others. Metro Planning Director Robin Blair emphasized that the streetcar is, above all, really about “accelerating pedestrian” movement through downtown.

The briefing package [PDF] mentioned above is packed with interesting data and charts that are definitely worth a closer look. While the document stops short of recommending one particular route, some options appear to be stronger candidates than others based on Metro’s preliminary evaluation. Maps and charts are after the jump! [Update: Here is an additional PDF document with individual maps of the seven routes in greater detail.]

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Bay Area pushes for huge Express Lanes expansion

The ExpressLanes project in the L.A. area has been mildly controversial at times — the one-year experimental program is converting about 25 miles of existing carpool lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways into variable toll lanes. Carpoolers will still use the lanes for free and single motorists will be able to use them for a toll, when there’s sufficient space in the lanes to sell.

It’s a big step for both Metro and the Southland, which has always emphasized the “free” in “freeway.”

But it’s a modest step when compared to the toll lane program sought by the Bay Area-based Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which this week is seeking permission from the state to add 290 miles of variable toll lanes either by converting existing HOV lanes or widening freeways and adding new lanes.

That’s on top of the 280 miles of lanes already approved for conversion into variable tolls lanes. The region would like one day to have a whopping 800-mile network of the lanes.

As the map shows, the lanes that the MTC needs approvals for this week are mostly in the East Bay — an area that has relentlessly sprawled outward over the decades. Reading deeper into the MTC’s application, it also looks like many of the carpool lanes will in the future require three passengers for free use of the lanes. I’m guessing that won’t sit entirely well with everyone.

I’m unaware of any congestion pricing project this big in the U.S., although there are certainly some large metro areas such as New York and Chicago where tolls — for everyone — are routine on many roads. The Bay Area proposal is a different type of beast, given it’s targeting just the carpool lanes. It will be mighty interesting to see how well it works, how many people carpool or pay to use the lanes and, of course, whether the new toll lanes can speed up express bus service that uses freeways.

Southbound I-405 offramp at Sunset Boulevard reopens

Following reconstruction progress on the Sunset Bridge, I-405 project crews have reopened the southbound freeway offramp at Sunset Boulevard early.  The offramp had been closed between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. during weekdays only as of October 15.  The offramp provides access to UCLA, Brentwood and other Westside areas. It was not scheduled to reopen until Oct. 29.

See the construction notice after the jump for additional details.

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I-405 freeway closures changed to start October 25

The schedule for this week’s full directional freeway closures in support of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project has been revised. These closures will begin tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 25, 2011, and last approximately four nights.

See construction notice for details:

ATTENTION RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS IN THE VICINITY OF THE SKIRBALL CENTER DR BRIDGE AND THE I-405 SAN DIEGO FREEWAY

The contractor has scheduled the implementation of a full directional freeway closure for four nights starting Tuesday, October 25, 2011 during the late night hours, weather permitting. A number of work activities will be conducted concurrently during these nights of the full directional freeway closures. These activities are as follows:

  • Installation of walkway on the north half of the Skirball Bridge
  • Mulholland Bridge column construction work
  • Removal and replacement of overhead freeway signs and structures to support freeway widening

Each night, ramps within the freeway closures limits may begin to close as early as 7:00 pm and freeway lanes will begin to close as early as 10:00 pm, leading up to the full directional freeway closure between the hours of 12:00 am, midnight, to 5:00 am. See below for schedule of upcoming freeway closures.

What: The implementation of a full directional freeway closure for several work activities in the area.

When: Work is anticipated to begin Tuesday, October 25, 2011, and last four nights during the late night hours, weather permitting. See table below for schedule of upcoming freeway closures.

Where: I-405 freeway between the Getty Center Dr. ramps and 101 freeway.

What to expect:

  • Oct. 25 & 26 — Southbound I-405 freeway from the 101 freeway to Getty Center Dr.  (freeway lanes closures staring at 10:00 pm)
  • Oct. 27 & 28 –Northbound I-405 freeway from Getty Center Drive to Ventura Blvd.  (freeway lanes closures staring at 10:00 pm)
  • Sepulveda Blvd. will remain open during the nights of these full directional freeway closures and will be used as a detour route. Detour maps are available at http://www.metro.net/405
  • Utility relocations will be conducted on the Skirball Bridge during the nights of the full directional freeway closures which requires the closure of the Skirball Bridge from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am
  • Emergency access will be maintained on the bridge at all times.
  • Pedestrians will be rerouted to an area outside of the construction zone
  • For a listing of daily closures and latest updates visit our website at http://www.metro.net/405 or follow us on twitter: twitter.com/I_405 and Facebook at facebook.com/405project

Letter from Independent Review Panel on Westside Subway Extension seismic and tunneling studies

We have already posted about last week’s oral report to the Metro Board by several experts on seismic and tunneling issues in the Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood areas. The experts recommended that the Century City station be located along Constellation Avenue to avoid two active earthquake fault zones and also said that tunneling could safely be done under the Beverly Hills High School campus.

As part of the studies, Metro asked four experts who did not work on the reports to review their findings; click here to see their biographies. Perhaps the best known is Dr. Lucy Jones, a research seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Institute of Technology who is often interviewed by local and national media.

Below is the two-page letter from those experts, who did agree with the reports’ conclusions:

Click above for a larger version.

 

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Underground utility work on Sepulveda to add to Westside congestion

Westside drivers beware. Beginning Monday, Oct. 24, it will be harder to travel on portions of Sepulveda Boulevard in the Westwood area through a combination of lane reductions associated with underground utility work and the still-in-force weekday morning closure of the southbound I-405 freeway offramp at Sunset Boulevard .  Plan ahead and add extra needed time to get through this area.

Here’s Metro’s news release on this 405 project work:

Westside Motorist Travel Advisory

Underground Utility Work on Sepulveda Boulevard in Westwood Area to Cause Increased Traffic Congestion Beginning Monday, Oct. 24

Motorists traveling in the vicinity of Sepulveda Boulevard in the Westwood area are advised to plan ahead and allow additional time to reach their destinations beginning Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 for three months due to reduced lanes on Sepulveda Boulevard between Moraga Drive and Montana Avenue.

Reduced lanes are required for underground utility relocation work that is part of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.  Chevron will relocate its utility line on Sepulveda Boulevard by drilling underneath the street in the affected area.  Work will occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week for three months; however, 24/7 work hours may be required.

Reduced lane capacity on Sepulveda Boulevard, coupled with last week’s closure of the southbound I-405 freeway off-ramp at Sunset Boulevard between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. weekdays only for Sunset bridge reconstruction work, is expected to temporarily exacerbate local traffic conditions, as motorists would normally utilize Sepulveda Boulevard as part of their detour route.  The closure period for the Sunset off-ramp is half-way completed, and is expected to reopen Oct. 30.

The entry location for the underground drill will be staged south of the Montana Avenue intersection.  As part of the first phase of reconfiguration, Sepulveda Boulevard was reconfigured to two northbound lanes and one southbound lane directly in front of the staging area south of Montana Avenue.

The exit point of the underground drill will be staged north of the Moraga Drive intersection.  Sepulveda Boulevard will be reduced to one lane in each direction directly in front of the staging area at Moraga Drive.

Street reconfiguration and placement of K-Rail on Sepulveda Boulevard between Moraga Drive and Bell Terrace is anticipated to start Friday, Oct. 21, 2011 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The reconfiguration will take place over three consecutive nights.

The $1 billion project, scheduled for completion in 2013, will build a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the I-405 between the I-10 and U.S. 101 freeways.  Additional project benefits include greater ramp capacities at key locations, widened overpasses, widened and seismically updated bridges and new landscaping within the project area.

For latest updates visit the project web site at www.metro.net/405 or follow the project on twitter: twitter.com/I_405 and Facebook at facebook.com/405project.  The project hotline is (213) 922-3665.

Digging the Chicago subway

Streamlining Chicago (1940) from WBEZ on Vimeo.

Hat tip to Source reader Todd Markle for sending over this story from the WBEZ website in Chicago about the city getting its first subway. The above is a film made in 1940 to promote Chicago’s subway and freeway (ahem, expressway) plan. There’s some great footage of the digging for the subway, including some neat shots of steel tunnels being shipped up the Chicago River and then sunk.

Read the accompanying story. There are some familiar themes. Chicago needed help from the federal government to help pay for the subway. And the film, made amid the Great Depression, talks a lot about jobs created by the city’s transportation program.

You could say the same exact thing today. Metro has applied for federal New Starts funds to help fund the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector projects. And both are part of the America Fast Forward package of legislation the agency is seeking in Congress to accelerate construction of road and transit projects and create jobs.

Full seismic and tunneling reports on Westside Subway Extension are now online

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, explains faulting to reporters after yesterday's Board committee meeting. Photo by Gayle Anderson/Metro.

The pair of reports on tunneling safety and seismic issues involving the Westside Subway Extension between Beverly Hills and Westwood have been posted online.

The reports were the basis for yesterday’s oral report to the Board of Directors by a variety of engineers, geologists and seismologists. The gist of it: they recommended a station along Constellation Boulevard in Century City to avoid two active earthquake fault zones in the area. They also said that tunneling under the Beverly Hills High School would not compromise the safety of students or the structural integrity of any buildings — or prohibit future development on the campus. Here’s the story on The Source.

A few additional thoughts, having had the chance to see some of the reaction:

•The material in the reports has not been known for a year, as has been alleged by the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Drilling and soil tests began last December — as we posted then — and continued for many months. Logs showing the dates for the different tests, which largely took place between last winter and early this summer, are in the appendices of the Fault Investigation Report. (see above link). The time since was spent doing more tests, analyzing and interpreting the results, writing the reports and having them independently reviewed by other experts. In September, a judge ruled that Metro did not violate the California Public Records Act by withholding any documents. And now, with the information finalized, it is being made public for any and all to scrutinize.

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