Transportation headlines, Monday, January 27

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When is a fare hike really a fare cut (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker gives a brief review of Metro’s proposed fare restructuring/increases and likes what he sees. In particular, he’s pleased that the agency is proposing to get rid of the transfer penalty, which requires passengers to pay full fare whenever they transfer buses and/or trains.

Excerpt:

The vast dense core of Los Angeles is one of North America’s great grid systems, designed to allow easy travel between any point A and any point B via a single connection.   Unfortunately, their current fare structure charges for a connection.  This makes as much sense as a road tolling system that charges only for turns.

It’s nonsense.  Connections are an inconvenience to passengers that is required by the structure of an efficient network.   Charging for connections encourages riders to demand wildly inefficient services like the late and famous 305, which zigzag diagonally across the grid, increasing complexity without adding much useful service.  It amounts to punishing customers for helping Metro run an efficient and attractive service pattern.

Like other fees, fare penalties for connections arise in part because journalists and activists over-react to the base fare figure, creating more political heat for raising that number.  So like money-losing airlines, the agencies have to look for other things to charge for to hit their fare recovery targets.  But charging for connections is counterproductive, because connections are the foundation of the network.  Airlines don’t do it.  In fact, airfares via a connection are often cheaper than the nonstop.  That’s because the connecting itinerary lets the airline run a more efficient service pattern.

Walker acknowledges that under the pair of Metro staff proposals, fares would overall increase. It depends on what the Metro Board ultimately approves but under the proposals some people would end up paying more — in particular those who use passes — while some passengers may find that they are paying a lower fare because transfers would be free.

The public hearing on the fare proposals is at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles (next to Union Station). Here is an earlier Source post looking at the proposals.

Gold Line extension gets low priority from SanBag (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) 

The San Bernardino Associated Governments subcommittee that deals with transportation funding has recommended first providing funding a pair of Metrolink projects over extending the Gold Line to Montclair and eventually to the airport in Ontario.

SanBAG officials say at this time there’s only so much money to go around and the Metrolink projects — extending tracks to Redlands and double-tracking some sections of the San Bernardino Line — have more countywide appeal at this time. That said, officials are generally supportive of the Gold Line projects but say that it’s a moot point until the Azusa-to-Montclair segment secures funding. If the project stays within L.A. County and ends at Claremont, then San Bernardino funds for construction and operating costs wouldn’t be needed.

In the meantime, the Board of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority last week approved issuing a RFP to find a firm to conduct an Alternatives Analysis of a Gold Line segment between Montclair and Ontario airport. The study is expected to take a couple years to complete.

My write: High noon at Bergamot Transit Village (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The proposed development near the future Expo Line station in Santa Monica would have five buildings, 765,095 square feet of development, 473 apartments (93 affordable/workforce units) and 25 artist live/work spaces in three buildings. The tallest building would be 85 feet — taller than surrounding buildings. In this op-ed, Bill Bauer writes that the City Council should reject the development for being too tall, too large and too much of a traffic generator.

Santa Monica’s traffic woes in recent years are legendary; the question is what, if anything, can be done about it? The second phase of the Expo Line will at least offer an alternative for some east-west commuters. I suppose the ultra-hypothetical question is what if Santa Monica was served by Expo, the Purple Line Extension (which is funded only as far as Westwood) and a Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project that connected with Expo, the subway and traveled south along the 405? They key word there is ‘hypothetical,’ btw.

Are streetcars really part of a city’s transit network? (The Atlantic Cities)

Yes and no, writes Eric Jaffe. On the one hand, they are often run by regional transit agencies and allow transfers to their buses and trains. On the other hand, they usually carry a very small portion of overall ridership, raising the question whether streetcars are the best use of local and federal funds.

Satellite photos show how dire snow conditions are at Yosemite and in the Sierra range (National Parks Traveler) 

Not a transportation story, but since drought is in the news — and we will all be impacted — the visuals here are pretty striking. If the mosquitos aren’t too bad, looks like 2014 will be an early backpacking year. Maybe this will be the summer I finally haul my ever-widening backside up to Honeymoon Lake and Granite Park.

Northbound I-405 closure between Moraga Drive and Ventura Boulevard planned the nights of Jan. 27, 28 and 29

A few 405 closures leading up to Jamzilla! Here’s the press release from Metro:

The northbound I-405 will be fully closed from Moraga Drive to Ventura Boulevard on the nights of Monday, January 27, Tuesday, January 28, and Wednesday, January 29, 2014 from midnight to 5am. The closure will accommodate shifting k-rail from the outside lanes to the inside lanes and shifting traffic to the east. A full restriping of the freeway in this area will take place.

The following closures will take place:

  • Ramps begin closing at 7 p.m. each night
  • Lanes begin closing at 10 pm.  each night
  • Northbound I-405 connector to US 101 north
  • Northbound I-405 connector to US 101 south
  • Northbound  on-ramp from eastbound Wilshire Boulevard
  • Northbound on-ramp from westbound Wilshire Boulevard
  • Northbound Sunset Boulevard o-ramp
  • Northbound Moraga Drive on-ramp
  • Northbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp
  • Northbound Skirball on-ramp

What to expect:

Transportation headlines, Friday, January 24

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ART OF TRANSIT: The abandoned section of Highway 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains as seen from Mt. Waterman. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The abandoned section of Highway 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains as seen from Mt. Waterman. Click above to see larger! Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro shelves directly rail line to LAX (L.A. Times) 

Laura Nelson sifts through yesterday’s marathon discussion by the Metro Board on the Airport Metro Connector project. As the story notes, it’s probably an uphill battle for two project alternatives that would run rail directly into and under the LAX terminals — an expensive and pricey proposition. While that will sure disappoint some, others say the other alternatives that would link the terminals to the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line would be more passenger-friendly and cost far less to build.

Metro considering fare hikes (Daily News)

The story includes some of the public testimony from yesterday’s Board meeting — in which the Board approved scheduling a hearing for the two fare restructuring proposals by Metro staff. No surprise here: the Bus Riders Union is against any kind of fare increases and accuses Metro of spending too much money on rail and highway projects while ignoring bus riders. If the point is that bus riders are more apt to be poor, the average annual household income for Metro bus riders in 2013 was $16,250 versus $20,770 for those who rode Metro rail, according to the agency’s latest customer survey.

CicLAvia announces 2014 schedule (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The Wilshire route returns on April 6 and the “Heart of L.A.” downtown route in October. New is a route for South L.A. on Dec. 7 that will link Leimert Park to the historic Central Avenue business district — a great idea! All three events should be easily accessible by Metro Rail.

In-N-Out Burger: we’re not coming to DTLA without a drive-thru location (DTLA Rising)

Good post by Brigham Yen who got In-N-Out to explain why they won’t consider putting a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles: they want an acre of land, at least 45 parking spaces and room for a drive-thru that can accommodate 15 cars. In other words, In-N-Out only wants to pursue suburban, car-centric locations.

Of course, it’s amazingly short-sighted and a bit stupid, as parking spaces don’t produce revenue and idling cars in drive-thrus are just kind of an out-dated (but perfectly legal) idea in a metropolis with some of the worst air in the nation, not to mention the whole climate change thing.

The worst part about it: an In-N-Out in a growing and transit-centric downtown L.A. would probably do just fine without parking or a drive-thru (imagine if In-N-Out was in Union Station). As Brigham notes, In-N-Outs in two urban locations — downtown Glendale and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco — are apparently doing just fine.\

BTW, about six million people who live in inland parts of Southern California — i.e. the ‘burbs that In-N-Out prefers — are breathing air that still does not meet federal clean-air standards, according to the L.A. Times.

Leimert Park, take II: 1992 (KCET)

An interesting look at Leimert Park Village, which Erin Aubrey Kaplan says remains a bright spot for the African American community but challenges remain in terms of keeping local businesses viable. As she notes, getting Metro to add a Leimert Park Village station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line was a victory for the community.

Mountain lion kitten killed by car (Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Facebook page) 

Sad news; the kitten was killed on Kanan Road, which runs north-south in the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu and Agoura Hills. However, rangers don’t believe the kitten was the offspring of one of the lions the park is tracking — the implicating being there may be additional lion(s) in the Santa Monica range.

Final Update: Blue Line resumes normal service

Final Update 5:51 p.m.: Power has been restored on both tracks of the Metro Blue Line between Artesia and Del Amo stations, and normal service is resuming at this time. Metro thanks those affected for their patience.

Service is currently suspended on the Metro Blue Line between Artesia and Del Amo stations due to loss of power that began around 4:50 p.m. Trains are turning back southbound to downtown Long Beach at Del Amo and northbound to 7th/Metro at Artesia. Bus shuttles have been requested for service between Artesia and Del Amo, and this post will be updated once shuttles have been established.

For immediate alternate service through the affected area, customers may use Long Beach Transit line 51 or 61 to travel between Artesia and Willow Stations. Metro Blue Line fares will be cross honored on LBT lines 51 and 61 at this time.

For up-to-the-minute status updates, follow Metro on Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metroLAalerts. Metro will provide updates on this incident as they become available.


City of Santa Clarita holds ribbon cutting ceremony for Old Town Newhall Roundabout

photo 4

Vintage cars pass through the brand new roundabout. Photo: Metro

The City of Santa Clarita held a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier today for the Old Town Newhall Roundabout project. The project, located at the intersection of Main, 5th Street and Newhall Avenue, includes installation of a roundabout with landscaping, crosswalks, induction energy saving street lighting and street lane modification to improve traffic flow.

The project cost $2,536,717, of which $702,563 was funded by Metro through Call for Projects. Check out the video below of an aerial view of the roundabout.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 23

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Record numbers riding easy on Expo Line (ZevWeb)

The Expo Line has already surpassed Metro’s ridership estimates (which tend to be on the low side) but there often remains plenty of room on trains. That may not last long — the second phase, when complete, is expected to substantially increase the number of people on board and trains may struggle to keep up. Riders interviewed said they like the convenience of the line and having the spare time to do something besides staring at the tail lights stopped in traffic ahead of them.

Airlines likely to balk at transit link (Daily Breeze) 

When LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey said that airlines weren’t thrilled about a people mover, reporter Brian Summers decided to ask for himself. And guess what: the carriers referred him to their trade group. Excerpt:

Still, Katie Connell, a spokeswoman for Airlines 4 America, a trade group representing eight of the nation’s largest carriers — including United, American, Delta and Southwest — confirmed that airlines generally do not support large-scale ground transportation hubs.

“In order to continue providing our customers with affordable air travel, airlines must evaluate the best use of their financial resources,” Connell said in an email. “Transit links are capital intensive and divert revenues away from necessary airport projects.”

For his part, Garcetti says he wants to move forward with plans for improved mass transportation across Los Angeles, including LAX.

“I’m committed to building a transit network across our city and I strongly support rail for LAX,” he said in a statement. “In October, I met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C., to discuss this important project and seek funding for it, and am continuing to work to make it happen.”

Call me dumb, but I’m not sure I understand why the airlines have any say in this — nor do I understand why we care when the airlines have shown little evidence they can run their own business. Yes, the airlines are the airport’s clients, but the airport also has another important set of clients: you, the passenger, taxpayer and voter.

Don’t scrap the bullet train for the hyperloop — yet (L.A. Times)

Op-ed writer Kerry Cavanaugh says a possible state ballot measure that would block funding for the state’s high-speed rail project in favor of Elon Musk’s hyperloop proposal is misguided. Excerpt:

Look, California’s bullet train project has its problems. The cost has doubled since voters approved spending nearly $10 billion on the project in 2008, and it’s likely to take at least a decade longer to build. If it gets built. The High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to spell out how it intends to fund the first phase of the line from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.

But stopping one ambitious project for a new, more ambitious project doesn’t make sense, particularly when the new idea is half-baked. As neat as Hyperloop and ET3’s idea may be, they are just concepts. We don’t know the cost, safety or time needed to build these projects. They may not even be possible.

 

The ballot measure is being pursued by Rep. Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo)

The U.S. keeps predicting that we’re driving more than we actually do (Washington Post) 

Smart piece showing that government projections have been consistently wrong since the late 1990s. Why does it matter? Such predictions may drive (pun intended) policy decisions about how to spend money on transportation.

Light rail linking Twin Cities goes green in June (Star Tribune)

The line will run between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The 11-mile line with 18 stations cost $957 million with federal funds covering half the cost. If you’ve never visited the Twin Cities, here’s a route animation:


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 22

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This is a long one today, folks — lots of news since last week to catch up on. And away we go…

Metro breaks ground on $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Line (L.A. Times and Daily Breeze

Crenshaw evolving: a look at Santa Barbara Plaza (Another Perfect Day) 

The news stories in the Times and the Breeze focus on yesterday’s groundbreaking event and both also note there were some protestors there — some arguing against the train running at street level through Park Mesa Heights, others saying the job should generate more local construction jobs.

Also rightly getting a mention is the ‘LAX’ part of the project’s name. Both articles note that a separate project is working to figure out how to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport. The Breeze article states that Metro officials are reluctant to build rail tunnels directly under the central terminal area and that’s correct — however, it should also be known that Los Angeles World Airports owns the land and officials have made it clear they don’t want rail tunnels under the terminal area due to the complexity of the work involved.

The Another Perfect Day blog post looks at redevelopment in the area along Crenshaw Boulevard and ponders whether the new rail line could help spark things. I liked this excerpt:

Back in 2008, I started working in the community and people who would see me with a camera knew that I was part of some type of redevelopment effort. Many conversations were had, but the universal message I got was that people were seeking the same kind of amenities that any community would want. Most of us take for granted the pleasant little communes we call shopping malls, but many would travel to such places as Fox Hills, Westside Pavilion or the South Bay Galleria to have an experience that was safer and more upscale.

Ultimately, they wanted to all this in their own backyard and who can blame them? We’re all Angelinos who hate traffic.

 

There was a lot of talk at yesterday’s event about the new rail line bringing economic development to the Crenshaw Corridor. That, of course, would be great and I personally believe the Crenshaw/LAX Line could help.

But…I also think rail lines alone don’t revive local economies. As we’ve discussed here before, you can certainly look at the Metro Rail map and find places such as NoHo, Hollywood, K-Town and DTLA (to name a few) that have seen a revival since the arrival of Metro Rail. You can also find many places near rail stations that haven’t changed much (much of the Blue Line corridor, for example).

So what does it take to revive a community? Mobility is certainly one factor, but other things that come into play are public safety, schools, a diverse stock of real estate and the willingness these days of businesses — including the national chains — to invest in neighborhoods they’ve overlooked or plain ignored.

As for the Crenshaw/LAX Line part of the equation, I disagree that the street level portion will be bad for Park Mesa Heights — in fact, I think having the train visible to the neighborhood and vice versa are a good thing. I also think it’s important to note that the current project isn’t happening in a silo. As noted, the Airport Metro Connector is working on the LAX part of the equation.

The South Bay Green Line Extension (a project partially funded by Measure R) will push the Green Line deeper into the South Bay, allowing trains to run from the South Bay to the Expo Line via the new Crenshaw/LAX tracks. An extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line remains in Metro’s long-range plan, albeit in the unfunded section. That would presumably push the tracks to the north toward the Purple Line subway. It may seem a long way off, but building that kind of transit network would benefit everyone, Crenshaw Corridor included.

L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin: airlines may not want it but LAX must be connected to rail (L.A. Airspace)

The story is in reaction to LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey telling the airport’s board last week that airlines aren’t interested in a people mover or rail going to the airport because they don’t want to pay for it and it doesn’t really benefit them. She also opined that perhaps it’s best to keep costs low for a people mover or “Intermodal Transportation Facility” that would serve as a junction between light rail and a people mover.

Bonin represents the Westside and the airport on the L.A. City Council and he repeats what he has said before: to paraphrase, he doesn’t give a hoot what the airlines say:

“It’s hardly a revelation that the airlines have little interest in growing transportation,” Bonin said. “All they care about is that you are at the airport. They don’t care if it took you three or four hours to get there. Our commitment as owners and operators of the airport requires us to be competitive for the customer experience. Traditionally, it’s an area where LAX has fallen down.”

Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti have said that connecting transit to the airport is among their top transit priorities. I think both this new article and the one last week require some reading between the lines and my reading tells me that when it comes to the airport and City Hall, it may be worth remembering who exactly works for who. :)

Metro seeks to raise fares and allow free transfers on bus, rail (L.A. Times) 

News coverage by Laura Nelson of the fare proposals released by Metro late Friday. Excerpt:

“We looked at our whole fare structure and said, is this really fair to our riders?” Metro spokesman Marc Littman told The Times. “We actually penalize our passengers for trying to use the system more efficiently.”

More than half of passengers make a transfer during their trips, Metro surveys indicate. Charging full fare at each transfer discourages passengers from using more than one bus or train, Littman said.

Riders who buy daily, weekly and monthly passes will see the biggest increase in price because most of them use the system most heavily, Littman said. The monthly unlimited pass, now $75, would be eliminated in 2018 and merged with a pass that allows unlimited rides on all Los Angeles County bus systems. The price would eventually rise to either $135 or $180.

Some of the comments are interesting and let’s just say they’re not all rave reviews of the proposals.

Here’s our Source post about the proposals, including the Metro staff report and charts showing the two options being proposed. On Thursday, the Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider whether to set a public hearing on the proposal on March 29.

LADOT announces Priority 2 list of planned bikeways (LADOT Bike Blog) 

The list includes the two dozen or so bike lane projects that the city of Los Angeles is pursuing in the next year. The mileage for most is on the small side but hopefully will help create more of a bike lane network than what currently exists.

Making Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard into a haven for pedestrians (L.A. Times) 

The city is pondering removing one lane in each direction and converting part of the street from parallel to diagonal parking in the Theater District (i.e. the area around the Vromans bookstore and the Laemmle theater). This would allow for wider sidewalks and parklets.

Traffic doesn’t exactly flow smoothly through the area now thanks to many cross streets and poor timing of traffic signals (my opinion, not the city’s — I live in Pasadena). So perhaps this makes it a better spot. Or perhaps this plan serves to completely constipate traffic on the main thoroughfare through town.

If the plan gets more development on Colorado, then I’m for it — although it will likely push traffic onto other nearby east-west streets, which will need better signal synchronization to handle it. I’ve been watching South Lake Avenue suffer a slow death for years now and I’d like to see the commercial corridors in town remain viable. And by viable I don’t mean 18 different types of banks, yogurt places and/or Subway sandwich shops.

Transportation headlines, Friday, January 17

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LukensRoadJan2014-8799

ART OF TRANSIT: The Angeles Crest Highway, at left, starts its journey into the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains above La Canada Flintridge. The view is a reminder of how wild and rugged our local mountains are. Click to see larger version. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Union Station eases policy on homeless seating in the waiting area (L.A. Times)

Metro officials told the Metro Board this week that they are working to restore seating in Union Station for Metro customers. In December, the seating area was set aside for Metrolink and Amtrak customers because of concerns about homeless people taking too many seats and causing other problems. It’s a tough issue for Metro as the agency purchased the station in 2011 for $75 million and obviously wants somewhere for its own customers to sit.

Orange Line’s dismal fare findings (ZevWeb) 

Coverage on Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website of the recent fare checks on the Orange Line that found on one occasion that 22 percent of riders hadn’t paid a fare and another nine percent had valid TAP cards but weren’t tapping. The Sheriff’s Deputies have responded with more fare patrols along the line, say Metro officials. Of course, that raises the obvious question: where were they before? Here’s the Metro staff report on the issue.

Who birthed ‘Jamzilla’ on the Sepulveda Pass? (KPCC)

The segment posted the question: who comes up with names for traffic jams? Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gets the credit for “Carmageddon” and this time around, “Jamzilla” was coined by a colleague of mine on the Metro P.R. staff. Which I love. I also saw a couple of good suggestions on Twitter the other day, among them “The Slow and the Furious” and “Carchella.” Listen here

BTW, if you haven’t heard…avoid the 405 on Presidents’ Day Weekend, Feb. 14-18, when northbound lanes will either be entirely closed overnight or mostly closed during the day for repaving. More details here.

California Congressional delegation is split on high-speed rail (KPCC)

Well, that’s hardly news. But the article makes one observation worth noting: legislators from other states — Republicans and Democrats — are surprised and perhaps delighted that California may spurn federal dollars for the state bullet train project. Most states, it seems, are attracted to federal money like lint is attracted to belly buttons. Or something like that (it’s Friday).

Southbound I-405 closure between 101 and Getty Center Dr. planned Saturday night

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor will be conducting a full southbound I-405 closure from US 101 to the southbound Getty Center Dr on-ramp on the night of Saturday, January 18 through the morning of Sunday, January 19, 2014, from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. in order to shift outside southbound lanes for median work.

Additional Closures

  • Ramps begin closing at 7 p.m.
  • Lanes begin closing at 11 p.m.
  • The US 101 southbound connector to the southbound I-405
  • US 101 northbound connector to the southbound I-405
  • Southbound Burbank Boulevard on-ramp
  • Southbound Ventura Boulevard on- and off-ramps
  • Southbound Valley Vista Boulevard on- and off-ramps
  • Southbound Skirball Center Drive on- and off-ramps

Detour Routes

  • From I-405 south: exit Burbank Boulevard, travel east to Sepulveda Boulevard, and southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.
  • From US 101 south: exit Van Nuys Boulevard, south on Van Nuys Boulevard, west on Ventura Boulevard, south on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.
  • From US 101 north: take I-405 northbound and exit Burbank Boulevard, east on Burbank Boulevard, south on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.

What to expect:

New freeway lane configuration to begin on I-710

I-710 Bypass

Here’s the press release from Caltrans:

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will change the lane configuration on the northbound and southbound Long Beach Freeway (I-710) from the southbound I-710/Pomona Freeway (SR-60) Connector to Humphries Street beginning on Thursday, January 23.
On southbound I-710, traffic will be switched to the median. One of the three lanes will be moved to the northbound I- 710 median and the other two lanes will be moved to the southbound I-710 median. Construction will take place on the existing lanes of southbound I- 710. (Please see attached illustration)
The new traffic configuration, which will be in place for several months, will allow project work to continue more quickly and efficiently. A 45 mile-per-hour speed limit will be imposed within the construction limits. It is expected that some delays might be experienced initially, however in similar bypass situations motorists have quickly adjusted to the new configuration.
The traffic switch is related to a pavement rehabilitation project on I-710 from Imperial Highway to Ramona Boulevard. This roadway rehabilitation will result in better ride quality and will reduce the need for maintenance. Existing median barriers will be upgraded to concrete barriers, therefore reducing the risk of vehicle crossovers. Construction of maintenance pullouts will also reduce exposure of maintenance personnel to traffic and enhance safety.
Shimmick/Myers and Sons is the contractor on the $120 million project which started in fall 2012 and will complete in 2015.