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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Preview of tomorrow’s Metro Board of Directors meeting; a look at some interesting items

The Metro Board of Directors meets on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at Metro headquarters for their regular monthly meeting. The agenda is posted above and below is some of the more interesting items on the docket:

•Item 17,

">a motion by Board Member Paul Krekorian asking Metro staff to report on whether increased revenues may come from digital billboards on Metro properties and more ads on buses and at other facilities.

•Item 41, a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking Metro to continue studies for an express bus line between Westwood and the San Fernando Valley that would use the 405 HOV lanes.

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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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“Inspire Your Fire” at the Festival of Books and save 10% on official merchandise with Metro

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From 2013 Festival of Books. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro

The L.A. Times Festival of Books takes over USC this weekend with music, food, films, books, books and more books! The event is free to attend; hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Getting to the Festival of Books without driving is a snap. Metro has three rail stations that serve the USC area off the Expo Line: Jefferson/USC, Expo Park/USC and Expo/Vermont. Both the Blue and Expo lines will see enhanced service during event hours to accommodate attendees. The Metro Silver Line also drops off at 37th/USC, and another option for those starting their trips from DTLA is the DASH F.

Due to the Patsaouras Plaza closure this weekend, the free Festival Shuttle Bus will be picking up passengers from Union Station at Cesar Chavez/Alameda. Connect with the shuttle via the Gold, Purple or Red Line. Signage will be placed around Union Station directing festival attendees to the shuttle stop.

As an added bonus, those who go Metro can save 10% on official FOB merchandise! Show your valid TAP card wherever festival merchandise is sold and save on your total purchase.

Some new Expo Line Phase 2 construction pics

Progress continues on the second phase of the Measure R-funded Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica. The folks at the Expo Line Construction Authority sent over the above photos, all taken in recent days.

Both Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension are more than 50 percent complete and aiming toward forecast openings in early 2016.

Meanwhile, the Crenshaw/LAX Line broke ground earlier this year — we’ll have more soon about upcoming construction activities. Utility relocation continues for the Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension with the Metro Board expected to soon consider construction contracts for both projects.

Yaroslavsky motion pushes for creation of San Fernando Valley-Westwood Express bus

We posted last month about proposed route changes for buses in the San Fernando Valley. One of the proposals is for the creation of a new 588 bus that would operate at peak hours that would run between Westwood and Nordhoff Street in North Hills, mostly along the 405 freeway and Van Nuys Boulevard. This new line still requires funding.

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky submitted a motion to the Metro Board today about the 588 bus; the motion was approved unanimously by the Board today and asks that staff continue the studies needed for the line and to report back to the Board in May. Here’s the text of the motion:

Motion by Director Yaroslavsky

Valley-Westside Express Bus

The San Fernando Valley and Westside are two of Los Angeles’ largest economic engines—places where millions live, shop, work and play. However, there is currently no express transit connection between the regions, which are separated by the Santa Monica Mountains.

This summer, the 405 Project is expected to complete construction and open High Occupancy Vehicle lanes that will create a new avenue for express bus service through the Sepulveda Pass.

Earlier this month, the San Fernando Valley and Westside/Central Local Service Councils held public hearings and made recommendations on proposed changes to bus service in their respective regions. Among the recommendations was the creation of Line 588, an express bus offering nonstop service through the Sepulveda Pass via the I-405 HOV lanes. The line would connect Westwood to the Orange Line and extend north along Van Nuys Boulevard to North Hills. When Phase 2 of Expo Line opens, it would extend south to meet it, providing a connection to Santa Monica, USC and downtown L.A. The proposed line received strong support from the public.

Line 588 promises an immediate solution for Metro patrons while plans for a more extensive future project through the Sepulveda Pass are being evaluated. Because funding has not yet been identified for the bus line, staff is not currently conducting the tests, studies and analyses that are needed to operate it. While efforts to fund the line continue, staff should make these preparations to ensure that Line 588 can begin serving the public as soon as possible.

I, THEREFORE, MOVE that the Board direct staff to:

1.    Prepare studies, tests and analysis for launching Line 588, an express bus connecting the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via the I-405 HOV lanes; and

2.    Report back on the status and progress of the preparations at the May, 2014 full Board meeting.

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.

Construction notice: 17th Street to be closed at Colorado for Expo Line work

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The above is from the Expo Line Construction Authority, the agency building the second phase of the light rail line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica. There is more information about the project and photos on the Authority’s Facebook page.

Transportation headlines, Friday, March 14

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! 

On Expo and Gold Line projects, light rail cars could be in short supply (KPCC)

Media coverage of the story posted on ZevWeb about the possibility of there not being enough light rail cars at Metro once the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extensions are complete. Excerpt:

Metro is in this bind because of a deal gone bad with AnsaldoBreda, the Italian contractor originally hired to make its rail cars.  That deal fell through in October of 2009, and the agency spent two more years settling on and signing a deal with a new contractor — Kinki Sharyo of Japan. Metro spokesman Marc Littman said Kinki Sharyo is essentially playing catch-up, setting a very aggressive schedule to make sure rail cars begin to arrive in the middle of 2015.

“They have a great reputation for being on time,” Littman said “They’re doing everything they can to get us the cars as quickly as they can.”

Littman said Metro expects to have 24 new rail cars by the end of 2015, with four more arriving each month after that.  He adds that once construction on the Expo and Gold Line extensions is complete, Metro must spend months testing each for safety and training operators before opening them to passengers.   Metro expects to open phase two of the Expo line in January of 2016 and the Gold Line’s Foothill Extension two months later.

Still, Metro is considering options for dealing with a potential railcar shortfall when the two new extensions open.

“One of things that we could do is shift all of our maintenance work to night so that we can squeeze more capacity out of our existing fleet during the day,” Littman said.  “It’s possible we might have to run shorter trains, or we might have to truncate service.”

I also offered a little history of this issue in yesterday’s headlines.

How many people get to work without a car in your neighborhood? (Better Institutions)

Nice series of maps by Shane Phillips that break it down by census tract in Los Angeles County. The results aren’t exactly a shocker: the tracts with the highest transit use tend to be close to downtown and the ones with fewest transit users tend to be on the county’s fringes (Malibu, Palos Verdes). Interestingly, some of the areas with low transit use will soon be getting new transit options — such as a very nice Gold Line station. I’m talking to you, Arcadia! :)

Paris offers free public transport to reduce severe smog (BBC)

A lack of wind and unseasonably warm days for late winter have conspired to produce Beijing-like smog in Paris, at times obscuring views of the Eiffel Tower. In response, officials have offered three days of free rides on transit from today through Sunday and also made bike sharing free.