Regional Connector design-build contractor recommended by Metro staff

Metro staff recommends a $927.2-million design/build contract with Regional Connector Constructors (a Joint Venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.) to build the Regional Connector project. The staff report is above.

The 1.9-mile underground rail line, forecast to be complete in 2020, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo lines and allow trains to travel directly from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. This should speed trips through downtown and reduce the number of transfers for most riders.

The project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The Board of Directors will consider the contract recommendation at their Construction Committee meeting on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. in the Board Room at Metro headquarters, adjacent to Union Station. The full Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its meeting on Thursday, April 24, at 9:30 a.m.

After the contract is awarded, the Regional Connector will be the fourth rail project now under construction, joining the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Purple Line Extension contract is expected to be awarded this summer and it will be the fifth rail project in Los Angeles under construction because of Measure R. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 25

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

An update on our unofficial Source bracket -- now ranked as 9.5 millionth best at ESPN. We'll do even better next weekend! (Go Bruins).

An update on our unofficial Source bracket — now ranked as 9.5 millionth best at ESPN. We’ll do even better next weekend! (Go Bruins).

General Motors misled grieving families on a lethal flaw (New York Times) 

The auto manufacturer in February issued a recall for 1.6 million Cobalts and other small vehicles, five years after it apparently knew about a flaw involving an ignition switch that could cause vehicles to suddenly lose power and the ability to deploy airbags, reports the Times. There have been 23 accidents involving 26 fatalities since 2009 involving those vehicles, with some of those accidents possibly tied to the faulty switch. G.M. does not directly dispute the NYT but says that it has evidence of 12 deaths tied to the switch problem, with the accidents all occurring in 2009 or earlier.

The most damning parts of the story include anecdotes about G.M. pressuring families to drop lawsuit – and, in fact, G.M.’s 2009 bankruptcy filing in court shielded it from liabilities before July 2009. Here’s the devastating kicker to the story:

In recent weeks, the parents of Benjamin Hair, the 20-year-old from Virginia killed in December 2009, received a postcard from G.M. announcing the recall. It was one of dozens of letters about their son’s car that the company has sent since the crash.

“How many times do I have to tell them?” his mother said. “We don’t have the car, and we don’t have our son.”

Focus in CTA crash focuses on operator fatigue, braking system (Chicago Tribune) 

The operator of a train that failed to stop at the end-of-the-line at O’Hare may have fallen asleep before the train jumped across the platform and climbed escalator stairs early Monday, according to officials. More than 30 were hurt in the crash, although none were life-threatening injuries. In the meantime, the airport’s rail station remains closed and passengers are taking a bus shuttle between the airport and the second-to-last stop on the CTA’s Blue Line.

City staff asks for permission to begin work on closure of Santa Monica Airport (Santa Monica NEXT) 

Staff are seeking the OK from the City Council to perform the kind of work that would accompany a closure of the airport in 2015– i.e. how to zone the land, studying what kind of environmental cleanup may be needed. Keep in mind that the city HAS NOT made a decision to close the airport and resistance from pilots, plane owners and the FAA would almost certainly follow. Nonetheless, interesting to see the city may soon begin mulling what other uses may be possible on the land, which is a little more than a mile south of the future Expo Line station at Exposition and Bundy.

Battle of the bike paths: L.A. River versus Ballona Creek (LA Weekly)

The Weekly gives the edge to Ballona Creek based on scenery, safety, destinations and other factors. I’ve ridden the path between the Expo Line’s La Cienega Station and Marina del Rey. It’s interesting, that’s for sure — and it’s very isolated from street life or anything else around it until you reach the Marina. The L.A. River path is interesting through the Glendale Narrows although it’s often freeway adjacent and it doesn’t directly connect to DTLA at its southern end. My three cents: both bike paths could use some work.

Preparing for the end of the world? Buy a bike (SF Weekly) 

A recent study partially funded by NASA made news for predicting the collapse of civilization in a resource-depleted world. That leads the Weekly to conclude that getting a bike will greatly help your personal mobility when we’ve run out of fuel and electricity to power cars. Bikes are also relatively easy to repair and may help you quickly escape roving bands of other humans that want to kill you.

Caltrans: state roads generally in good shape (Mercury News) 

The agency’s annual “state of the pavement” report finds that 84 percent of the roads it manages in the state are in healthy condition while 16 percent are in “poor” condition. In the Los Angeles region, 35 percent of freeway lanes are in poor condition.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 4

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Blue Line train strikes vehicle–at least 12 injured (L.A. Times)

Initial reports are that a mini-van ran a red light and was struck by a Blue Line train on Washington Boulevard and Maple Street in downtown Los Angeles. Metro officials said that 10 people aboard the train were injured — none life-threatening and mostly described as cuts. The Los Angeles Fire Department said that 12 people overall were hurt. The train runs down the middle of Washington Boulevard and train and car traffic are both controlled by traffic signals. Therefore, there are no crossing gates.

Earlez Grill relocates to make way for Crenshaw/LAX Line (Intersections South LA)

The popular restaurant that used to be a stone’s throw from the Expo Line’s Crenshaw station has to move south. The new address will be 3864 Crenshaw Boulevard, about a half-mile south of the Crenhaw & Exposition intersection and an easy walk.

Los Angeles redoubles its efforts to win 2024 Olympics (Daily News)

The big question among the experts: what the International Olympic Committee will ultimately want from a host city: an effort starting from scratch requiring billions of dollars in investment or a more modest effort using existing buildings and infrastructure? The latter would seemingly favor a bid from the Los Angeles area. As I’ve written before, one thing our area can boast to the IOC (if it comes to that): in 1984 there were ZERO miles of rail serving the area. By 2024, there will be 117 miles of light rail and subways (and possibly more if projects are accelerated by America Fast Forward, etc.) and another 512 miles of commuter rail provided by Metrolink.

How Buenos Aires unclogged its most famous street (The Atlantic Cities) 

The answer: Avenida 9 de Julio saw three lanes of car traffic converted to bus rapid transit lanes in the middle of the street — even with a subway that runs below. A lot of opposition surfaced before the change and apparently melted away after the world didn’t end.

Cities move to help those threatened by gentrification (New York Times)

With cities enjoying a renaisance in some parts of the U.S. and property values rising thanks to new market-priced development, cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Boston (to name a few) are changing laws to freeze or lower property taxes of long-time residents who stuck out the hard times. The property tax issue is not really an issue in California thanks to Prop 13 which greatly limits the amount that property taxes can be raised year-over-year. That said, there isn’t much in place to regulate the actual price of housing, the reason that affordable housing advocates fret (rightfully, in my view) that some parts of California cities will become off-limits to anyone but the wealthy.

Iron Maiden singer planning on circumventing the globe twice in world’s largest airship (Salon) 

Looks like a nice way to travel. Hopefully passengers don’t have to listen to Iron Maiden, a band who reminds me of a broken jackhammer.

Photos from the California drought (PolicyMic)

A little off-topic, but pretty amazing photos of two depleted reservoirs, Oroville and Folsom.

Roundup of Thursday’s Metro Board of Directors meeting

A few items of interest tackled by the Metro Board at today’s monthly meeting:

•The Board approved Item 16 to provide $1.3 million for improvements to the Branford Street railroad crossing of Metrolink tracks in Los Angeles in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Improvements include pedestrian gates, roadway widening and additional warning signals.

•The Board approved Item 55 to rename the Blue Line’s Grand Station to Grand/L.A. Trade Tech and the Expo Line’s 23rd Street Station to 23rd St/L.A. Trade Tech. The Board also approved Item 56 to rename the Exposition/La Brea station to the Exposition/La Brea Ethel Bradley Station.

•The Board approved Item 58, a motion that asks Metro to implement an online database of previous Board of Director actions. At present, searching for motions and past actions is a crapshoot. The motion also asks for linking audio from Board meetings to reports — something that would, I suspect, be very useful to anyone who cares or is interested in actions taken by the Board of an agency with a multi-billion dollar annual budget.

•The Board approved Item 67, asking the Board to oppose AB 1941, which would add two members to the Metro Board to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Rules Committee, respectively. I included some background and thoughts on this legislation in a recent headlines — see the last item in this post.
•The Board approved Item 18.1, a motion asking Caltrans to report on difficulties that have emerged in the transfer of park-n-ride lots at Metro Rail stations from Caltrans to Metro. The motion begins: “Item No. 18 and Director Najarian’s accompanying Motion underscore the importance of Metro’s increasingly complex relationship with Caltrans.” If I am reading the remainder of the motion correctly, I think “complex” is a perhaps one way of saying “difficult,” at least on this issue.

•The Board approved Item 70, a motion asking Metro to seek ways to improve lighting and pedestrian access to/from the Universal City over-flow parking lot for the Red Line station.

Item 9, a motion to eliminate the monthly maintenance fee for ExpressLanes accounts that infrequently use the lanes and substitute a flat $1 fee on all accounts, was held and will be considered by the Board in April.

And here’s the FTA news release on the funding agreements for the Regional Connector

Public officials with a rendering of the Full-Funding Grant Agreement for the Regional Connector. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

From left: Former Metro Board Member Richard Katz, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board Member Pam O’Connor, L.A. Councilmember and Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian, Metro Board Member Jackie Dupont-Walker, FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, Duarte Councilmember and Metro Board Member John Fasana, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas, Lakewood Councilmember and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Councilmember and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin and Metro CEO Art Leahy. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

From our friends at the Federal Transit Administration:

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today celebrated the signing of a $670 million construction grant agreement to help build the Regional Connector light rail transit line in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The two-mile rail segment will connect three existing transit lines, offering thousands of area residents more efficient and convenient access to jobs, education, and other ladders of opportunity. FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan took part in the signing event along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Xavier Becerra, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other state and local officials.

“LA’s Regional Connector will help make this city and region a better place for tens of thousands of Angelenos by ensuring that public transit not only works for everyone, but that it works better than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Administration is committed to ensuring that every American has access to ladders of opportunity that lead to success—and access to public transportation is essential to making that happen.”

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) will use FTA’s grant funds to build an underground connection between the existing Metro Gold line in Little Tokyo and the Exposition and Blue light rail lines, which currently terminate at Flower and 7th Streets. The grant also includes four new light rail vehicles to augment the existing fleet. The project will reconfigure Metro’s three existing LRT lines into two lines, one primarily running north to south, and one east to west. The project reconfiguration will eliminate the need for riders to make cumbersome transfers from light rail to the Metro Red or Purple Line subway system, and then back onto light rail, to reach their destinations.

“The Regional Connector will improve the quality of LA’s light rail service by offering a one-seat ride that cuts travel times from Long Beach to Azusa and from East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley to Santa Monica,” said FTA Deputy Administrator McMillan. “The traffic gridlock of Los Angeles has been the roadblock for many residents who need better, more reliable access to the jobs and educational opportunities offered across the metropolitan area, which is why we are proud to be a partner in the greater transit vision for the future of the Los Angeles region.”

LACMTA estimates the Regional Connector will open in 2020 and initially handle roughly 60,000 trips or more each weekday. In addition to the $670 million that FTA has committed to the project through its Capital Investment Grant (New Starts) Program, LACMTA will receive $64 million in other U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funds and a loan of up to $160 million from the DOT’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovative Action (TIFIA) loan program. The remainder of the roughly $1.4 billion project will be funded with state and local resources.

In addition to the Regional Connector, the FTA is advancing two other major transit expansion projects in the Los Angeles metropolitan area: the Crenshaw/LAX light rail transit corridor project and Section I of the Westside Purple Line Extension. The $2 billion Crenshaw project, which broke ground in January, is funded in part with a $545.9 million TIFIA loan and approximately $130 million in other FTA and DOT funds. DOT has approved a TIFIA loan of up to $856 million for the Westside project, which is also in line to receive funding through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program later this year.

Federal government approves $670-million grant and $160-million loan for Regional Connector

Officials from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration signed a pair of agreements Thursday that will provide a $670-million federal grant and a $160-million federally-backed loan for the Regional Connector light rail project. The total budget of the project is $1.37 billion.

A media event with public officials is being held at 10 a.m. next to the Gold Line’s Little Tokyo station. We’ll post photos and video later today.

In practical terms, the agreements clear the way for construction to begin later this year on the 1.9-mile underground light rail line in downtown L.A. that will tie together the existing Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line with tracks between 7th/Metro Center and Little Tokyo. When the project is complete — forecast for 2020 — passengers on those lines will be able to travel through downtown without having to transfer to another line.

The project will also allow trains to run more frequently through downtown. Blue Line and Expo Line trains currently must turn around at 7th/Metro Center, a time-munching maneuver.

Utility relocations on the project are already underway with construction expected to begin later this year after the Metro Board of Directors selects a contractor to build the line. Metro already has three light rail projects currently under construction — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The first phase of the Purple Line Extension of the subway is also expected to sign funding agreements with the federal government later this year, allowing the Metro Board to select a contractor to build that project.

That means that within the next calendar year, Metro could have an unprecedented five rail projects being built simultaneously that will add about 29 miles of rail to the existing 87-mile Metro Rail network. All five projects are also receiving significant funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The Connector is the first Metro project to receive a federal New Starts grant since the Eastside Gold Line, which opened in 2009. New Starts is a federal program designed to help local transit agencies build expensive transit projects.

The loan is coming from the federal TIFIA program, which helps local areas secure low-interest loans that are cheaper than loans found on the open market. The TIFIA program is part of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative that was expanded in the most recent federal multi-year transportation bill. Metro is seeking to have the program renewed and expended in the next bill, which Congress is expected to debate this year.

The Connector was originally envisioned as a rail project that would run at street level through downtown. Public opinion, however, swayed Metro to put the line underground, which increased costs but will also provide faster travel speeds and eliminate the need for a rail undercrossing at Alameda Street. The increased cost is the reason that federal funding is crucial for the project.

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The news release from Metro is after the jump.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 9

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

Metro will replace and refurbish scores of aging Blue Line cars (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of yesterday’s media event to explain ongoing renovations to the Blue Line which will cost $1.2 billion. As the Times notes, the bulk of the money is being spent on new rail cars that will be shared by the Blue and Expo lines. They’re also getting a new paint job — goodbye the “mustard” stripe and hello train cars that are mostly gray with yellow fronts, a popular look in the United Kingdom. See below:

A rail car in Liverpool. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A rail car in Liverpool. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

As for Metro, the first of the new rail cars is scheduled for delivery in Aug. 2015 with all 78 rail vehicles to be received by Jan. 2017.

Washington Metro awards $184 million for futuristic fare collection system (Washington City Paper) 

Excerpt:

The new system, according to WMATA, will be equipped to accept chip-enabled credit cards, federal government IDs, and cell phones for fare payment, as well as SmarTrip cards.

“While Metro pioneered the tap and go system we currently use, by today’s standards that system is cumbersome and the technology is not sustainable,” said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles in a statement. “The new technology will provide more flexibility for accounts, better reliability for riders, and real choices for customers to use bank-issued payment cards, credit cards, ID cards, or mobile phones to pay their Metro fares.”

Washington Metro’s current fare cards are similar to TAP cards. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and several other Board members authored a motion last year calling on Metro to study other fare payment systems, including smart ticketing using cell phones.

Mountain lions in Santa Monicas need more room, experts say (L.A. Times)

As evidence grows of inbreeding among the tiny population of mountain lions in the Santa Monicas, experts say the lions need more range. The challenge relates to transportation: the lion’s range is constrained by development and, in particular, freeways on all sides. Perhaps the most troublesome barrier is the 101 freeway that serves as a barrier between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills. Excerpt:

The California Department of Transportation has twice sought federal funding for a $10-million tunnel crossing near the Liberty Canyon Road exit. The area is part of a critical wildlife corridor that connects the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Riley and others working with DOT recently proposed what they consider a superior option: a landscaped crossing over the freeway. Such overpasses have been successful in Canada and Europe and are starting to be used in the Western United States.

“I’m arguing pretty aggressively for an overpass,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which owns much of the land near the proposed crossing. “It would be more inviting for the animals.”

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will consider next month whether to provide $200,000 so the California Department of Transportation can study alternatives. The cost of an over-crossing would far exceed the $10 million that has been projected for a tunnel.

The multi-million dollar question here: will it be too late for the lions by the time a crossing is studied, possibly approved and funded? Of course, the fact that lions have survived this long in the Santa Monicas is remarkable and a testament to their ability to adapt and the fact that lions can’t be hunted in California.

Christie fires aide in bridge scandal as U.S. opens inquiry (New York Times) 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he had no knowledge that his staff and appointees ordered lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge last fall as a way to punish the mayor of Fort Lee — who happens to be a Democrat and who happened to not endorse Christie in last year’s governor’s election. Recently released emails show otherwise — that Christie’s staff was directly involved. The U.S. Attorney’s office have launched an inquiry which should presumably show whether Christie was involved in any decision making. He has already fired one of his deputies who was involved, calling her “stupid.”

Jon Stewart has coverage, too. Warning: adult language/visuals, etc.

Hey, it’s almost Friday — so why not a song from one of Gov. Christie’s favorite musicians?

The Source’s big, honkin’ 2013 roundup post has landed; take it, it’s yours

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UPDATE TUESDAY, 12:55 p.m.: I added a few items concerning Metro’s bike program that are worth putting on the record! :) 

Above is the very nice rainbow seen Thursday afternoon over East Los Angeles and County-USC Medical Center. Will there be a rainbow over Metro in 2014? Stay tuned for that, folks.

As for 2013, here are some of the highlights:

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Metro debuted a new “under construction” map in June, which proceeded to skip happily across the internet. Metro currently has 87 miles of rail lines and that number will pass 100 once the projects shown on the map are completed.

•In February, the ExpressLanes projected opened on the 10 freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway, joining the lanes that had opened on the 110 in Nov. 2012.

Perhaps the big news on the ExpressLanes front was the Metro Board of Director’s decision last spring to suspend account maintenance fees. Although the fees applied to relatively few existing customers at the time, there seemed to be a positive reaction from the public — by late summer more than 200,000 transponders had been issued, twice the number expected before the lanes opened on the 10 and 110.

Next year will be a big one for the ExpressLanes as the Metro Board is scheduled to decide whether to continue the pilot program or not.

In a pronounced nod to transit etiquette, Metro introduced platform decals in February in an effort to get passengers boarding trains to stand aside in order to allow passengers to disembark from the train.

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The reaction by many Metro customers: that’s nice but what about decals to show people to stand on the right on escalators?

•It was a big year for one of those Metro Rail projects, with the Metro Board of Directors approving a $1.27-billion contract in June to for the final design and construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail line. Earlier in the year, the Board — in a deal brokered by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — had decided to add two optional stations to the project — one serving Leimert Park and the other at Hindry Avenue to serve nearby Westchester.

•The second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension both are about halfway complete with work proceeding smoothly on both of the Measure R-funded projects.

Track work near Overland Avenue earlier this fall. Photo by Expo Line Construction Authority.

Track work near Overland Avenue earlier this fall. Photo by Expo Line Construction Authority.

Work crews working on the bridge over Palm Drive in Azusa. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Work crews working on the bridge over Palm Drive in Azusa. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

•Meanwhile, utility relocation and other exploratory work continued in advanced of construction on the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension subway.

Metro contractors in October looking for tiebacks -- anchors that help support building foundations.

Metro contractors in October looking for tiebacks — anchors that help support building foundations.

•Early in the year, the Board approved a contract to provide cell phone service in underground stations. The contract was recently signed and work will soon begin; complete installation is expected to take 24 months.

•In March, a new ‘share the road’ poster debuted and was widely praised by the cycling community. A T-shirt with the design on it is available in the new Metro store that opened in December.

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Metro released draft alternatives for the Los Angeles Union Station master plan in May. In October, the Metro Board approved going forward with a concept that would construct a greatly expanded east-west passenger concourse while relocating the bus plaza to a north-south configuration closer to Alameda Street that would also consolidate many of the bus stops around Union Station. The final master plan is scheduled to be considered by the board in the latter half of 2014.

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Zipcars finally landed at Union Station in March.

Gate latching finally got underway in June, beginning with the Red/Purple Line. By year’s end, five Gold Line and five Blue Line stations were also latched. Gates on the Green Line will be latched in early 2014.

More frequent late night service was added to the Expo, Gold and Orange lines in June.

•Los Angeles got a new mayor on July 1, meaning the Metro Board also got a new member — Mayor Eric Garcetti. He subsequently announced his three appointees to the Board: Councilman Mike Bonin, Councilman Paul Krekorian, and Jackie Dupont-Walker.

•The 2014 Metro Call for Projects (CFP) grant cycle awarded approximately $199 million to highway, transit, and active transportation projects across Los Angeles County. A record 43 applications were submitted for bike projects and about $27 million was awarded to 17 of them in L.A. County and the following cities: Los Angeles, Redondo Beach, Burbank, Pico Rivera, Culver City, Calabasas, Whittier, Long Beach, Rosemead, La Verne, Arcadia, Lawndale, Temple City, Santa Monica and El Monte.

•In October, in an introductory video for the annual Mobility 21 conference, Mayor Garcetti said that another transportation ballot measure is possible in Los Angeles County and that connecting Los Angeles International Airport to Metro Rail is among his highest priorities.

•In July, Metro released its review of a Beverly Hills Unified School District consultant memo that challenged the agency’s rationale for choosing the Constellation site for the Purple Line Extension ’s Century City station. The gist of it: Metro defended its prior work that determined that Santa Monica Boulevard was an inappropriate location for a subway station due to the location of active earthquake faults.

In the meantime, lawsuits by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration challenging the project’s environmental studies continue to proceed through the courts.

•Rail cars with a new exterior design debuted in August on the Blue and Expo lines.

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•Metro held a media event in September in hopes of stopping a rash of suicides along the Blue Line over the past couple of years. Signs were also installed along the Metro Rail system with information on where people could get suicide crisis help.

•In October, the Board approved 40 percent of the funds generated from the ExpressLanes project to be invested in active transportation projects within three-miles of the project area. The projected $16 to $19 million will help to improve transportation options, air quality, congestion reduction, and improved access for all users.

•Metro staff this fall issued a report that refined the alternatives for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. They are: peak hour bus lanes along the curb of Van Nuys Boulevard, a bus lane in the center of Van Nuys Boulevard, a low-floor light rail line in the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard and a light rail line that would require passenger platforms in the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard. The draft environmental study for the project is expected to be complete in 2014.

•In September, the Metro Board approved spending $2 million annually for events similar to CicLAvia throughout Los Angeles County. The funds will be available beginning next year on a competitive basis.

•The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project managed to open several components of the project this year, including a 1.7-mile segment of the new northbound carpool lane, the new Wilshire flyover ramps and the new northbound off-ramp to Sunset Boulevard – just this past week — the new Mulholland Bridge, the direct descendent of Carmageddon I and II.

The new eastbound Wilshire to northbound 405 flyover on-ramp. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The new eastbound Wilshire to northbound 405 flyover on-ramp. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The new Mulholland Bridge. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

The new Mulholland Bridge. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

•In November, a Metro Board committee discussed the need for fare restructuring, which is expected to be formally proposed and considered in the first half of 2014. Among options that agency staff discussed are unlimited rides on a single fare for a certain time period (for example, an hour or 90 minutes), different fares for peak and off-peak hours and a simplified zone structure and/or offering flat fares for zoned buses.

•In December, a connection was built linking the newly renovated El Monte Station and the popular Rio Hondo Bicycle Path, making it far more easier for walkers and cyclists to reach one of Metro’s primary transit hubs.

And that’s pretty much the highlights as the sun sets on 2013 — please leave a comment if I left anything significant out.

A profound thank you to everyone for reading, riding and writing us with your questions, concerns and comments this past year. After our usual holiday breather, we’re looking forward to explaining what YOUR government is doing in 2014.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,

Steve

A lovely November evening as seen from the Metro mothership. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A lovely November evening as seen from the Metro mothership. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Work continues to restore Blue Line service between downtown Long Beach and Willow station

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Here are a trio of photos taken this morning of the work underway to repair the overhead wires on the Blue Line in Long Beach. The pantograph on a rail car damaged the wires about 5:20 a.m.

Blue Line service has been suspended between downtown Long Beach and Willow station while repairs are being made. Metro is operating shuttle bus service between downtown Long Beach and Willow station and Long Beach Transit Bus 51 is also available.

The repairs are expected to be complete in mid-afternoon.

There is regular Blue Line service between Willow Station and 7th/Metro Center station in downtown Los Angeles.

For up to date information, please follow our twitter pages @MetroLosAngeles and @MetroLAAlerts.

Long Beach through the eyes of artist Christine Nguyen

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Have you spotted the latest poster from the popular Through the Eyes of Artists series riding rail and bus? Long Beach artist Christine Nguyen designed an imaginary, underwater dreamscape that playfully intertwines jellyfish, sea vegetation and caves with iconic Long Beach landmarks, including the Astronaut Islands, El Dorado Nature Center and the Walter Pyramid at California State University, Long Beach.

Metro commissions local artists to create original artworks for the Through the Eyes of Artists poster series, which expresses the uniqueness of Los Angeles County neighborhoods, as a way of encouraging people to take Metro to explore destinations served by the agency. The newest design, celebrating Long Beach, is the 30th poster in the series.

For more information about this award winning series and to view all 30 posters, click here.