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.

map_corridor_reg_conn_eng

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen recalls the opening

This is the second of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

In this video interview with Seymour Rosen, a member of the Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council, Rosen talks to Metro Community Relations officer Rich Morallo about attending the opening of Union Station in 1939.

Rosen was a teenager when his father took him to the Union Station opening parade on May 3, 1939. They went early to try to secure a good vantage point and ended up standing right in front of Union Station. He and his dad were among the half-million onlookers.

What Rosen remembers most was the crowds. He had never seen so many people in a single location.

“You have to remember that Los Angeles in 1939 was not New York City. This was a major thing. There were so many people. And to see such a grand structure. It was an exciting moment in my life,” Rosen recalled.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 2

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A tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass? It might be yours for 25 cents a day (L.A. Times) 

Kerry Cavanaugh looks at the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project through the prism of a possible transportation sales tax increase that Metro is exploring for 2016. Measure R dedicates about a billion dollars for the project, but some of the early options for the project — including both a road/toll tunnel and rail tunnel — would require a public-private partnership, cost billions more and probably require some public money. Excerpt:

Yet the possibility of easing the most congested corridor in the nation is so tantalizing that Los Angeles voters might just be willing to tax themselves again to build it, right? That’s what transportation advocacy group Move LA is certainly hoping. Last week during a conference focused on developing a new half-cent sales tax increase proposal, Move LA organizers made the Sepulveda Pass tunnel a key focus of the discussion.

Move LA is pitching the sales tax measure for the November 2016 ballot, with a eye toward raising $90 billion over 45 years. The group estimates that it would cost the average county resident about 25 to 30 cents a day. This would be on on top of the existing Measure R half-cent tax increase for transportation.

After the loss of Measure J (a 30-year extension of the Measure R tax, which voters narrowly rejected) in 2012, Move LA and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are approaching the ballot measure cautiously. They’re trying to build more county-wide consensus on needed transportation projects, with the incoming Metro board president, Mayor Eric Garcetti, promising a more “humble Los Angeles city” as he courts the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay cities that rejected Measure J.

As Kerry writes, the prospect of a good transit project across the Sepulveda Pass has always seemed to be a “distant dream.” So true. If there is a ballot measure in a couple of years, it will be very interesting to see what, if any, role this project plays in it. On a related note, here’s a study from 2012 that shows some of the different concepts initially explored for the Sepulveda Pass project.

L.A. could clash with L.A. County on transit tax measures (L.A. Times) 

Reporters Laura Nelson and David Zahniser ask a good question: if the city of Los Angeles pursues a sales tax increase this November to pay for street repair, how will city voters respond if Metro (a county agency) pursues the aforementioned ballot measure in 2016? It’s especially tricky considering the city of of L.A. is, of course, by far the largest city in the county and no county measure would likely pass without major support from city voters. The few people willing to talk on the record say that pursuing sales tax increases in both 2014 and ’16 is a poor idea but elected officials from the city of L.A. declined comment.

Koreatown to become next luxury market (GlobeSt.com)

The real estate site’s article is bullish on the prospects for K-town, saying there will be more multi-family housing and one of the big attractions for the area is its quick transit connections to downtown L.A. and Hollywood. The words “cosmopolitan” and “luxury” are tossed around in the article; the word “affordable” does not make an appearance.

L.A.’s interchanges are beautiful — if you’re not stuck in traffic (Southland-Gizmodo)

Nice photo spread on some of our bowl-of-spaghetti freeway interchanges, with a couple of sweet aerial shots of the four-level 110-10 junction in downtown.

Study ranks metro areas by sprawl (Governing) 

If there’s anything new here, it’s the assertion that more compact and connected metro areas offer more economic mobility. Makes sense. Not entirely sure why it required a study. About to send your child to graduate school? My three cents: perhaps a plant identification guide, map of the Pacific Crest Trail and a good lightweight backpack would be a better investment — if, that is, enlightenment is the goal.

America’s zippy new trains still lag behind those in Europe (Wired) 

A short and depressing reminder that train travel in the United States — the same country known for its big, wide open spaces — will mostly remain a 79 mile per hour or under affair with a few exceptions.

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, so here’s your reminder: don’t drink and drive

Mmmm, St. Patrick's Day. Photo: Frosted with Emotion via Flickr Creative Commons

Mmmm, St. Patrick’s Day. Photo: Frosted with Emotion via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s nearly time for that annual bacchanal of green libations: St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re planning on starting the party this weekend, please keep in mind that drinking and driving is a terrible idea. It’s all fun and games until you get that $10k ticket — or worse.

Let Metro be your designated driver. Plenty of festivities are Metro accessible and Metro Rail runs until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

On St. Patrick’s Day, go Metro to Casey’s St. Patrick’s Day Street Festival. The event spans three city blocks and is located near Pershing Square Station and 7th/Metro Center. It starts at 6 a.m. — for the truly, uh, ambitious — and admission is free until 1 p.m. and $10 after. Plus, you can save 15% on food at Casey’s (and Cole’s French Dip) with your TAP card.

Metro Rail will run regularly scheduled weekday service on Monday, March 17. Maintenance work in the evening has been cancelled in anticipation of increased ridership. The last trains generally end around midnight. Check Metro’s timetables for exact bus and train schedules and maps and you can plan your transit trip using either the planner at top right of the page on metro.net or Google Transit.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 3

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Have bike, will ride train — if only Metro will provide bike lockers (L.A. Times) 

Good opinion piece by Nicolas Goldberg. His dilemma: he wants to bike to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line Extension and take the train from there to work sans bike, which he doesn’t need to bring all the way downtown L.A. But there are only 16 bike lockers at Wilshire/Western and there’s a waiting list to get one. And thus the headline — he argues for more bike lockers at busy stations.

Obama turns to light rail to salvage transit legacy (The Hill)

Bad headline — I’m not sure any recent President has a “transit legacy” given the relative paucity of federal dollars available to build transit across the U.S. (about $2 billion a year to be shared by many different agencies). This blog post argues that Republicans have been largely successful at blocking high-speed rail projects touted by the President in his first term. As a result, his Department of Transportation may step up efforts to help fund light rail and streetcar projects around the country.

Why does downtown Los Angeles have parking minimums? (Better Institutions) 

The writer argues, in essence, that a chronic shortage of street parking in L.A. guarantees that developers in downtown will build parking. And, thus, there’s no need for zoning laws that mandate certain amounts of parking get built — instead it would be better for the markets to decide so that those who don’t need parking don’t have to pay to build it for those who do.

Google sets roadblocks to block distracted driver legislation (Reuters) 

The internet giant, Reuters reports, is lobbying against potential laws that would prohibit driving while wearing devices such as glasses embedded with small computer screens. The article doesn’t specify Google’s exact concerns with the laws, although Google already tells customers to comply with existing distracted driving laws. Will be interesting to see who prevails on this one — I’m hoping common sense, but not betting on it.

Video from this morning’s Regional Connector event

Here’s our original post along with the Metro news release.

And here’s the FTA’s news release.

And the non-government view of things? Here’s the L.A. Times article.

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.

Transportation headlines, Monday, February 10

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Even Bruce Springsteen is singing about the 405 and this coming weekend’s Jamzilla, when the northbound lanes of the 405 will be closed or mostly closed for 80 hours. Above video from Springsteen’s show Saturday night in Perth, on the west coast of the AC/DC continent.

43 years ago Sunday: Sylmar quake topples freeway and prompts seismic retrofitting plan (Primary Resources) 

The Metro Library’s blog takes a good look back at the 6.6-quake in San Fernando on Feb. 9, 1974, that brought down freeway bridges, killed 49 in the VA Hospital in San Fernando and compromised many other structures. As a result, a new state law prohibited new development in earthquake fault zones. But 43 years hence, the state is still mapping those zones — the reason that Metro did extensive mapping work of its own when planning the Purple Line Extension in the Century City area.

A new OCTA video promoting the 91 Express Lanes that run between the 55 freeway and the Riverside County Line. The big news these days is that Riverside County is getting on board and adding the toll lanes between the county line and Riverside, a project scheduled to be complete in 2017. By most accounts, the aforementioned AC/DC song aptly describes this commute.

Bullet train ridership estimates up, cost estimates down in new business plan (L.A. Times)

The cost drops by $800 million to $67.6 billion to build the completely grade-separated line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, ridership projections are up by 25 percent to 35 million in 2040. The state is appealing a Superior Court ruling last year that prohibited the sale of state bonds to help fund the project — without the state bonds, the project can’t receive federal funds. Meanwhile, the project hopes to break ground this summer on the initial 29-mile segment of track near Fresno.

Sochi got the gold, bypassed village got the dust (New York Times)

The new road and railroad between Sochi and the Winter Olympics ski resort don’t include an exit or station, respectively, at a tiny mountain village of 200 that also took the brunt of highway and railroad construction. Residents hope that some of the Games’ money and excitement will trickle down to them, but that appears unlikely for now.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 4

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ART OF TRANSIT: Metro headquarters, the Union Station train platforms and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as seen from Elysian Park on Monday evening. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Metro headquarters, the Union Station train platforms and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as seen from Elysian Park on Monday evening. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Yes to an Arts District subway stop (Downtown News) 

The editorial praises Metro CEO Art Leahy for directing Metro staff to study adding subway stations at 1st Street and 6th Street along existing Metro tracks. As some know, the tracks for the Red/Purple Line subway continue south from Union Station to a rail maintenance yard along the Los Angeles River and adjacent to the emerging Arts District.

This idea has been kicking around for years — and has been pushed in the past by L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge. Excerpt:

The neighborhood has become one of the hottest communities in Los Angeles and is seeing a blitz of development. The 438-apartment One Santa Fe is rising east of the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and Legendary Development is preparing to break ground this year on a nearby 472-unit rental complex. Other housing projects already exist throughout the area, including three buildings developed by the firm Linear City in the southern portion of the district. Being able to get these people from their homes to the center of Downtown, or other neighborhoods throughout the region, without climbing into a car has obvious benefits.

Then there is the biggest project coming to the area: In 2015, work will start on a $401 million replacement of the Sixth Street Viaduct. The project will improve connections between the Arts District and Boyle Heights, and include recreation areas on the banks of the Los Angeles River.

All of this activity means that the district could wind up in a traffic crush. That is a serious concern, considering that stakeholders have already experienced the first pangs of congestion and parking shortages. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to be in front of a problem rather than play catch-up later?

We’ll see what happens — the obvious challenge is figuring out how to get people from a presumed street level train platform safely into the Arts District. I don’t believe anything is imminent but it sounds like an exciting idea, especially with the subway extension soon to start construction along Wilshire Boulevard.

Editorial: planning for the future (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The newspaper urges the Santa Monica City Council to approve plans tonight for the Bergamot Transit Village, located near the future Expo Line 26th/Bergamot station (it’s at 26th and Olympic). Excerpt:

Growth is inevitable. Santa Monica and the rest of the region will continue to attract more people. Whether it’s the 22-year-old graduate from MIT looking to strike it big with her next smartphone application, the New Jersey native stepping off the bus with dreams of Hollywood stardom or the young couple about to start a family, population growth cannot be stopped. Therefore, we must find ways to accept it and manage it as best we can. Without building more housing or more office space, Santa Monica will be unprepared to deal with the increase in demand. Rents will skyrocket, young families will be pushed out and this city will be further strangled by gridlock and falter from a lack of diversity.

The Hines project, with its combination of office space, retail and housing, helps create the community of the future, one in which people can live, work and shop all within their own neighborhood, and without getting into their cars. It’s what innovative, visionary urban planners are calling smart growth, and we agree. We can no longer afford to be car-centric. Change must come and it will be painful for some, but you cannot have progress without some discomfort.

Hines is offering to provide affordable and market rate housing that is sorely needed, plus the creative office space to keep us competitive and attracting the high-wage jobs that make our local economy strong. There is a dedication to preservation, child care and green space. The project, if approved, would be built adjacent to public transit in the form of the Exposition Light Rail line. This is what is envisioned in the Land Use & Circulation Element, a planning document that was debated for years by the community, one that protects traditional residential neighborhoods but allows for growth along transit corridors to meet future demand.

Growth has been everything but inevitable in Santa Monica for decades — the population has barely grown in the past half-century compared to the rest of the region. A lot of that is due to lack of development. And how has that worked out? Well, real estate prices are sky high — unless a rental unit is rent controlled — and traffic is widely agreed to be terrible because of people commuting to jobs.

The Daily Press calls for tweaks to the project — mostly more green space — but opines that a better deal or development is unlikely to come along. Whatever happens, I hope something gets built because putting development near transit makes a lot of sense.

LAX expects to spend $3 million to study consolidated rental car facility (Daily News)

The study would look into building a single facility for rental cars at Manchester Square, the old residential neighborhood west of the 405 and north of Century Boulevard. The airport has bought up most of the properties there and is collecting a ticket fee to help pay for a project should it come to pass.

Train-related excerpt:

Under the plan expected to be approved Monday, Kansas City, Mo.-based TranSystems Corp. will receive about $3 million to study building the car rental facility. Many other airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor and Chicago Midway, have centrally located rental buildings, in which many companies share one garage. Eventually, L.A.’s facility likely would be linked to the Central Terminal Area with an automated train. If built, in 20 years it might also be linked via the same automated system to Metro’s Green and LAX/Crenshaw lines.

I suppose the key phrase there is “20 years.” The automated train — i.e. the people mover — would presumably first travel from the terminals to a “Intermodal Transportation Facility” the airport hopes to build where light rail would meet the people mover

. Here’s the airport map showing how it all comes together:

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, January 28

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Rest in Peace, Pete Seeger….

Rail alone can’t reinvent L.A. (L.A. Times)

Ethan N. Elkind is pleased to see that three rail transit projects are simultaneously under construction in Los Angeles County. But…and it’s a big ‘but’…here’s the excerpt:

But these billions risk being wasted if city leaders do not promote, and residents do not allow, new growth around rail stations and corridors. Why? Rail is expensive to build, operate and maintain compared with other forms of transit. It only becomes cost-effective with high ridership. And the best way to boost ridership is to locate new jobs, housing and retail near stations.

Focusing development around rail provides multiple benefits. It allows the region to accommodate new residents and natural population growth without building endless subdivisions on open space and worsening traffic and air pollution. It can reduce the high cost of housing by boosting in-town supply, making it easier for businesses to attract and retain talented employees. Finally, rail-accessible development can create convenient, walkable neighborhoods that meet the growing demand among millennials, childless professionals and empty nesters to move “back to the city” — as many recent urban success stories attest.

Couldn’t agree more. Which leads to the next story…

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-elkind-los-angeles-rail-transit-20140127,0,6436265.story#ixzz2riZNuJjl

We’ll be fine (Santa Monica Next)

Gary Kavanaugh takes a look at the Bergamot Transit Village proposal that goes before the Santa Monica City Council tonight for approval. I included an op-ed against the project in yesterday’s headlines (traffic was the big gripe) and Gary’s piece largely finds the project favorable. Excerpt:

My own stance on urbanism and environmentalism that has evolved in recent years . Conserving nature requires a certain amount of letting cities be cities, keeping what development we do inward, and kept away from pushing out edges expanding the total footprint of industrial civilization upon the landscape. Lowering our dependency upon voracious rates of oil consumption and high transportation CO2 emissions requires planning new housing and workplaces around our most energy efficient transportation investments, such as the developing light rail system.

As the data emerging from the truncated Expo Line Phase I has shown, rates of driving do in fact drop off quite significantly for many with car access, but the effect is strongest in that immediate walking radius of the stations.

Also informing my view is an expectation that the completed Expo Line to Santa Monica will exceed expectations. Phase 1 has already hit its 2020 ridership projection. Traffic studies, such as the ones on the impact of the Hines development, are often loaded with assumptions that are already eroding, and that I believe will erode further as we progress through the 21st century.

The long-standing criticism against development in Santa Monica is that it will cause traffic to get worse. But here’s the thing: Santa Monica’s population has barely budged since 1960 — from a little more than 83,000 to about 92,000 in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. I think it’s fair to ask if keeping population growth in Santa Monica artificially down (the rest of the region has grown at a much larger rate) has also ensured bad traffic because of all the people drive into and out of Santa Monica who work or visit there frequently.

One semi-related thought: I think ridership on Expo should be healthy with a caveat: people boarding on the far western side of the line and riding to downtown L.A. will get frustrated if the run times are not more consistent between Crenshaw and downtown L.A.

Broadway traffic lanes to be slashed (Downtown News) 

As part of the Bringing Back Broadway effort, a city proposal seeks to reduce traffic lanes from six to three while widening one of the sidewalks and adding pedestrian seating and bump outs. If the streetcar gets built, it would share a lane with traffic.

Councilman proposes DASH trolleys to make transit more fun (Curbed LA)

L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge wants a couple of DASH buses to look like open-air streetcars to encourage more ridership. Not a bad idea. Maybe start with a route on weekend nights running between the Art District and Little Tokyo to LA Live via the revived Spring Street corridor?

Time-based transfers are key to transit’s success (Global Toronto)

The Toronto area is considering allowing those who purchase fares on buses and trains to ride an unlimited amount in a 90-minute time period — instead of allowing a transfer only in one direction. Proponents say that’s good for folks who want to run round-trip errands for a single fare — and that will increase ridership. Metro is proposing the same thing here — a higher base fare but unlimited transfers for 90 minutes, including round-trip rides.