Metro Board approves $1.6-billion contract to construct first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway

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After a long discussion, the Metro Board of Directors voted 9 to 3 to approve a $1.6-billion contract with Skanska, Traylor and Shea, a Joint Venture (STS), on Thursday morning to construct the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway. The first phase — with a total budget of $2.7 billion — is currently forecast to open in 2023.

No votes were from Metro Board Members Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Board Member Gloria Molina was absent for the vote.

The contract approval was a key step forward for one of the cornerstone projects to be funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. A $1.25-billion federal New Starts grant is also paying for the project.

The extension will push the subway from its current terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be constructed at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

The procurement process began in June 2013; details are in the above Metro staff report. Three firms bid on the contract. Proposals were evaluated based on project management, technical approach and price. There was considerable discussion by the Metro Board on the issue of how the bids were evaluated and the weight that should — or should not — be given to price.

The two firms that did not win the contract have filed protests with Metro. The Board is allowed to award the contract pending the timely resolution of the protests.

Metro staff noted that while the Skanska, Traylor and Shea bid was the most expensive bid by almost $193 million, Metro staff also believes “this team offers best opportunity to deliver the project on time and on budget” — a promise reiterated by the winning bidder’s future project manager. The companies involved have also worked on the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the city of Los Angeles’ North East Interceptor Sewer tunnel.

Metro Board Member Don Knabe said that $192.5 million was too much “to leave on the table” without getting more information on the bids and the protests. Other Board Members indicated that they had faith in the agency’s technical evaluations and/or they did not want to potentially delay the project by taking too long to approve a construction contract.

Utility relocations for the Purple Line Extension’s have been underway since last year. The most recent construction timeline is below. The timeline assumes that the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills grant Metro the work hours that it needs.

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Metro continues to explore ways to accelerate the second phase to Century City and third phase to Westwood via America Fast Forward, which would increase federal funding for transit if Congress were to embrace the entire concept and fully fund it. Metro is also exploring a possible ballot measure in 2016 that could potentially accelerate Measure R projects.

Metro already has an unprecedented four rail projects under construction: the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica, the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line between the Expo Line and Green Line and the 1.9-mile Regional Connector that will connect the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines in downtown Los Angeles. All four projects are receiving funding from Measure R.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, July 21: preparing for the ‘Century Crunch’

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Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

ART OF TRANSIT: The clock tower that will soon be installed at the Arcadia station for the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Foothill Extension Construction Authority officials say the project that will extend the Gold Line 11.5 miles from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border is almost 75 percent complete. Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Century Crunch could make journey to LAX worse (Daily Breeze)

Coverage of the closure this weekend of the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards near LAX in order to demolish an old railroad bridge to make way for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The closure begins at 9 p.m. Friday and is scheduled to last through 6 a.m. Monday. Excerpt:

“We anticipate there is going to be a lot of congestion in and about the airport,” said Dave Sotero, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We just don’t want to see people missing their flights because they are affected by the extended time frames.”

For weeks, LAX and MTA officials have worked to spread the word, sending notices to the media to alert the public, to airlines and other transportation companies to warn their employees, and to hotels along Century Boulevard to alert their guests.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti even starred in a YouTube video, asking airport travelers to plan ahead.

“Because we planned ahead, Carmageddon never happened on the 405. So let’s plan ahead again,” Garcetti said. “Avoid the area if you do not need to be there and, if you must, allow for extra travel time and use public transit.”

The airport is expecting its usual heavy air traffic through the weekend and almost 93,000 vehicles pass through the Aviation/Century intersection on the average day — airport officials say it’s the busiest entrance and exit to the airport.

Please consider taking the Flyaway bus or public transit if traveling to or from the airport this weekend. If driving, the detour map is below and using Sepulveda Boulevard is one choice for avoiding Century Boulevard.

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Report to Metro: pay attention (L.A. Register)

Tough audit sparks reforms (ZevWeb)

The Register looks at an internal audit of the of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which is under contract by Metro to patrol the agency’s buses, trains and stations, and contract oversight by Metro. Excerpt from the Register:

“The results of the audit are disappointing,” said County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who sits on the Metro Board of Directors. “The Sheriff’s Department should have done a better job in meeting the requirements of our contract and MTA executive staff failed to manage the contract competently or effectively.”

The report noted some recent improvements, however.

“More citations have been written, the number of fare checks has increased, officer morale has generally increased, and plans to address staffing issues and other improvements are underway,“ the audit said.

Spokespeople for both Metro and LASD said the organizations agreed with most of the recommendations and said that actions were already underway to increase performance. As a result, there was a persistent decline in violent crime over the past year.

Serious crimes incidents are below 4 incidents per 1 million boardings, and the numbers have improved since last year, according to Metro spokesperson Marc Littman.

 

As the article on Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website notes, “The audit comes as the sheriff’s Metro contract—by far the department’s largest—is up for renewal. The new contract will likely be worth more than $400 million over five years, the report said. The department currently is working under a $42 million six-month contract extension that expires on Dec. 31.”

Kicking the can down the road: a habit that is hard to kick (NPR)

Good piece that attempts to answer why Congress will only offer temporary fixes for the Highway Trust Fund and other budgetary matters. The answer: it’s hard to do anything decisive when there’s another big election looming.

Museum row losing tenant to Metro (L.A. Register) 

No new news here, but a reminder that the Architecture and Design Museum on Wilshire Boulevard has to be move to make way for construction of the Purple Line Extension’s Wilshire/Fairfax station. Museum officials are looking for a new location — with downtown Los Angeles one possibility. Meanwhile, the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday is scheduled to consider approving a $1.6-billion contract with Skanska, Traylor and Shea to build the project’s 3.9-mile first phase with new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 5

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Congress detours from common sense on the Highway Trust Fund (Washington Post) 

The editorial takes a dim view of lack of efforts to keep the Fund funded. Excerpt:

BOTH PARTIES want to do nothing but squabble before this year’s election. Not much will stop them — except, perhaps, this dose of reality: If political point-scoring is all they accomplish over the next several weeks, work on the nation’s roads, bridges and rails will come to a halt.

The federal Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money this summer. Without a fix, federally backed transportation projects all over the country — not just highways — would be in danger of severe disruption or cancellation. That translates into high costs now to stop and restart projects once funding comes through, higher costs in the future as contractors build the risk of funding holdups into their prices, downward pressure on construction jobs and unnecessary delay for anyone who uses the infrastructure. Failing to shore up the fund in time would be plain legislative malfeasance.

The Post thinks two obvious funding sources would be a higher federal gas tax or a vehicle mileage fee. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn’t been raised since 1993.

America’s invisible trolley system (Newsweek) 

A look at some of the many light rail projects that have been proposed across the U.S. but never built for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most interesting paragraph in the article:

Compared with Europeans, Ross says, ”Americans have much greater interest in sorting out different people of different incomes into different neighborhoods.” When it comes to mass transit, he says, “the classic argument is that it’s gonna bring crime. The fashionable one right now is that it will gentrify our neighborhood and make poor people suffer. I’ve seen people make both of these arguments in the same paragraph.”

San Francisco transit workers call in sick for a third day (San Francisco Chronicle) 

About 70 percent of the San Francisco Muni’s bus and rail service was running Wednesday — an improvement over the previous two days. Union workers rejected a new contract last Friday that they said would result in a pay cut. At this time, the union isn’t allowed to strike but members are allowed to call in sick.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 8

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New contract guarantees a series of raises for some Metro workers (L.A. Times) 

Metro and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 127 have approved a new contract that will provide three percent annual raises for about 2,300 maintenance workers for the next four years. The new contract will cost Metro roughly $36 million with agency officials saying that it’s important to retain and fairly pay the skilled workers who keep buses and trains moving each day. Union officials say the contract is fair but that workers are still paid less than their counterparts in New York and Chicago.

Sexual harassment makes nearly 20 percent of riders feel unsafe (L.A. Times) 

The story concerns a question asked in Metro’s annual Customer Survey that was released this week. Excerpt:

The sexual harassment question was prompted, in part, by a national discussion about safety on public transit that followed a fatal gang rape on a New Delhi bus in 2012, Boberg said. A study by London’s transit agency the following year found that 15% of women riding transit there had experienced “unwanted sexual behavior,” but 90% of them had not reported it, according to the Guardian

Metro staff members who read stories online about such data realized they had very little comparable information, Boberg said, and decided to add the question to the most recent passenger survey. He added that Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his transportation staff also indicated they were interested.

One of the biggest surprises in the data was that men reported feeling unsafe because of sexual behavior nearly as often as women, Boberg said About 18% of women felt unsafe, as opposed to 16% of men.

Obviously, Metro takes this issue seriously and, as a Metro spokesman notes in the article, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has increased patrols on Metro buses in addition to deputies that patrol Metro Rail trains and stations. Metro asked the question on the survey to better discern the number of actual incidents versus perception of the problem.

Here are some key statistics. According to the LASD, there were 103 sex crimes including one rape on Metro buses and trains that was reported in 2013. Metro Customer Relations has received seven sexual harassment complaints in the past three years. Metro had 478.1 million boardings on its buses and trains in 2013.

Agency officials stressed this to me today: Metro takes seriously the perception that people feel unsafe for any reason. Sexual harassment is obviously a societal issue that also exists beyond the bounds of transit and Metro wants to stay ahead of the curve. The agency encourages anyone to let the bus operator, LASD deputies or any Metro personnel know if they feel harassed or threatened. On trains, passengers can use emergency intercoms located on rail cars and in rail stations. All bus and rail passengers can report problems via the TransitWatchLA app for smart phones or contact Metro Customer Relations by calling 323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876), emailing customerrelations@metro.net or filling out the online form.

As we noted, harassment is certainly an issue beyond transit in Los Angeles County. For some helpful context, sexual harassment on transit received some attention a few years ago in New York when a survey by the then Manhattan borough president at the time suggested that harassment on the New York subway system was extremely widespread. Here’s a New York Times article about a New York City Council meeting on the issue in 2009 with some statistics and anecdotal quotes.

Breathing uneasy: living along the 710 freeway corridor (KCET)

The article looks at a project being studied by Caltrans and Metro to improve traffic along the southern stretch of the 710 freeway between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the 60 freeway (where much of the freight traffic begins to head east). As noted in this news release, alternatives include widening the 710 freeway up to 10 lanes (five in each direction), modernizing and reconfiguring the I-405, SR-91 and a portion of the I-5 interchanges with the I-710; modernizing and reconfiguring most local arterial interchanges along the I-710 and looking at a provision of a separate four-lane freight corridor to be used by conventional or zero-emission trucks. Some nearby community members want to see more traffic diverted from the freeway, better transit and bike paths along the 710 corridor and the zero emission corridor come to fruition. Click here to visit the study’s home page.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the train (The Poston Report)

Writing on his personal blog, L.A. Times reporter Ben Poston reports on the evolution of his commute over the past couple of years. He used to bike to work in DTLA, but got tired of being hit by cars. He then went back to driving — and wrote about it — but took a lot of heat from readers who said he should either stick with biking or try something else.

And the something else? Excerpt:

Since I started riding the Metro two months ago, I haven’t looked back. It’s now my preferred mode of travel and I only drive when my job requires it.

With gas prices typically at more than $4 a gallon, I know that I’m saving serious cash every month, not to mention the wear and tear on my car.

Though I have to leave earlier than before, I’m enjoying the slower pace of transit commuting. During my 20-minute morning walk from my apartment to the Red Line stop I usually stream National Public Radio or listen to music on my smart phone.

I read magazines and newspapers on the train, which is relaxing. It’s also nice to walk among my fellow Angelenos instead of being isolated in my car bubble. The best part is the ride home: I don’t have to sit in traffic or deal with it at all, which is much less stressful.

So that’s it. My LA commuting sage is over. I’m taking the train as often as possible and enjoying it. I’d encourage anyone else to give it a try.

Metro tweets trash Ducks: is this the start of a new hockey tradition? (L.A. Register) 

The new L.A. Register asks whether it’s appropriate for government agencies to support the home team and tweet about sports, using Metro’s tweets (read: my tweets) about the Kings and the Stanley Cup Playoffs as an example. One attorney interviewed says that a pre-Game 7 tweet I wrote about the Sharks that included a chart on the Heimlich Maneuver may not have been appropriate. I obviously disagree. The Sharks’ lousy playoff record speaks for itself and the Kings, in fact, overcame a three games to zero deficit to win the series. As for the bigger question about why tweet about sports? Well, the Kings have had a Destinations Discount deal with Metro in the past, many Kings fans take Metro to games at Staples Center (using Pico Station shared by the Blue and Expo lines) and who says that everything government says has to be boring?

Mileage tax for California drivers proposed in State Senate (Mercury News) 

The article — picked up from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group — looks at SB 1077 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) that would allow a pilot program for a device to be used to track mileage in cars and then tax the motorist based on miles driven. Motorists are currently taxed in California by paying 5.9 cents per gallon for fuel. Proponents of a by-the-mile tax say it would more accurately tax motorists for the true cost of driving by taxing those who use road space the most. 

 

 

 

Metro Board approves $927-million contract for construction of Regional Connector project

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A $927.2-million contract to build the Regional Connector light rail project was awarded to Connector Constructors (a Joint Venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.) by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday.

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 Board also approved a motion by Board Member Don Knabe authorizing Metro CEO Art Leahy to add an upper level and pedestrian bridge at the Connector’s 2nd/Hope Street Station to better connect the station to Grand Avenue (2nd/Hope is down hill from Grand) and to secure funding for it, including an elevator and/or escalator. The motion asks for the upper level and bridge be incorporated into scope and project budget. Here is an earlier Source post with more renderings of what a second level and bridge may look like.

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This is the 2nd/Hope Station as originally planned.

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This is a Metro rendering of a possible upper level and pedestrian bridge to the new Broad Museum that the Metro Board wants added to the project. The idea is to bring the station up to the level of Grand Avenue.

The $1.42-billion project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The Regional Connector is also being funded by a $670-million federal New Starts grant and $160-million federally-backed TIFIA loan.

The Board also approved Item 77C in closed session today involving a property acquisition from the Los Angeles Times at Broadway and Spring. Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois said terms of the agreement will be released after the deal is finalized.

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.

Here is the Metro staff report on the contract:

The news release from Metro is after the jump:

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Metro staff report on recommendation for Crenshaw/LAX Line contract is now posted online

Crenshaw/LAX Line contract report

Above is the Metro staff report to the agency’s Board of Directors recommending that Walsh/Shea be contracted to build the Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail project.

Here is our post from Friday explaining the recommendation along with background about the project.

Update on Crenshaw/LAX Line construction contract

For the folks out there following this: Metro CEO Art Leahy has informed the Metro Board that agency staff will not release a recommendation for a contract award to build the Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail project in time for this month’s Board meeting.

Please stay tuned and we’ll let you know when the bidding information will be released.