Caltrans and Metro today released the long-awaited draft environmental study for the High Desert Corridor project, which contemplates a new 63-mile freeway between Palmdale in Los Angeles County and the town of Apple Valley in San Bernardino County — along with a possible high-speed rail line, bikeway and green energy transmission corridor. The study also considers the legally-required No Build alternative.
The High Desert Corridor sits north of the San Gabriel Mountains, traditionally the divide between the heavily populated Los Angeles Basin and the rural Mojave Desert. In recent years, however, desert cities such as Palmdale, Lancaster, Adelanto, Hesperia, Victorville and Apple Valley have grown tremendously and now have a combined population near 700,000. The study predicts more growth — and more traffic — in coming decades.
Transportation, however, has remained a challenge in the High Desert with Highway 138 remaining the primary east-west option. Highway 138 is narrow — two or four lanes, often with no center divider — and long ago earned a reputation for its safety issues.
As with other transportation projects, funding for the High Desert Corridor project will remain a challenge. At this time, the project is not funded, although Measure R helped provide money for the project’s environmental studies. Among the alternatives studied is a toll road that could raise funding needed to help finance the project.
Reminder: If you’re making travel plans for Friday, July 4, please consider that Metrolink will only be operating two special round-trip trains on the Antelope Valley Line. Regular service will resume on July 5. Here are the details from Metrolink:
In observance of Independence Day, Metrolink will not operate service on Friday, July 4, with the exception of two round-trip trains on the Antelope Valley Line. The special Metrolink service will run from Lancaster to Los Angeles Union Station and back.
Antelope Valley Line train 262 will depart Lancaster at 8:55 a.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 11 a.m., while Antelope Valley Line train 268 will depart Lancaster at 2:25 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 4:30 p.m.
Making the return trip to the Antelope Valley will be train 263, departing Los Angeles Union Station at 11:40 a.m., while train 269 will depart LAUS at 5:25 p.m. The trains will reach Lancaster at 1:50 p.m. and 7:25 p.m., respectively.
The four trains will make all stops at the 11 stations along the Antelope Valley Line.
Regular service will resume system-wide on Saturday, July 5.
The above video was recently released by the High Desert Corridor [HDC] study team. For those new to the project, the HDC proposes to construct a new 63-mile east-west freeway between the 14 freeway and State Route 18 in the Antelope Valley.
A rail link parallel to the new road is also being studied as a way to connect California’s bullet train project to the proposed XpressWest, a private venture seeking to build a high-speed train between Victorville and Las Vegas. It should be noted that XpressWest needs a multi-billion dollar federal loan in order to be built and the U.S. Department of Transportation recently decided to stop processing that loan.
As for the High Desert Corridor, the idea behind the project is to relieve traffic on the 138 (the Pearblossom Highway), which is partially two lanes, often congested and can be very dangerous. A lot of truck traffic from the San Joaquin Valley area uses the 138 (and other roads) to reach the 15 and 40 freeways, the two big eastbound links for freight traffic headed from California to other parts of the U.S.
The ongoing environmental studies for the HDC were funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project, however, remains unfunded. One possibility to help pay for the project is to use a public-private partnership to fund part of the corridor as a toll road to help pay for construction.
Commuting in the City of Lancaster just got a little bit better with the recent opening of the Avenue I/SR-14 interchange.
Here’s the press release from the City of Lancaster:
Today, the City of Lancaster, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) officials commemorated the recent opening of the new Avenue I/State Route 14 interchange.
“With The BLVD transformation downtown, as well as the addition of new hotels and entertainment venues along the Front Row Center complex near Lancaster Municipal Stadium, the need for an improved freeway interchange at Avenue I became very apparent,” said City of Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “This new interchange paves the way for continued development in these areas.”
The fourteen-month construction project increased the capacity of the interchange, solved previous safety and visibility concerns, and provided easier access to popular destinations.
“To enhance mobility for commuters, reduce congestion and improve air quality for the residents of the Antelope Valley, Metro has committed over $5 million to the SR-14/Avenue I interchange,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Michael D. Antonovich.
A collaborative effort between the Los Angeles County Metro, the City of Lancaster, and Caltrans, the $12 million project involved the widening of Avenue I to three lanes in each direction, while providing dual left turn lanes onto State Route 14 from both the eastbound and westbound directions. The project also replaced the problematic stop-sign controlled southbound off ramp with a new loop ramp which now intersects with Avenue I at 23rd Street West.
“The City of Lancaster is experiencing tremendous growth in population and in the movement of goods, so Caltrans and its partners have designed an interchange that accommodates this growth, enhances safety and improves mobility to improve access to State Route 14 at Avenue I and to the surrounding communities of the Antelope Valley,” said Michael Miles, District 7 Director for Caltrans.
Metro will be holding a series of Transportation Development Act (TDA) Article 8 public hearings for the use of TDA Article 8 funds in the North County and the City of Avalon.
The TDA Article 8 funds are for those areas of Los Angeles County that do not have Metro service because they are located outside Metro’s service area. These areas include Antelope Valley (Palmdale & Lancaster), Santa Clarita Valley and Santa Catalina Island (City of Avalon). These hearings will determine TDA Article 8 budget funding allocation for FY 2013-14 for the North County and Avalon.
This year the hearing board consists of Michael Cano, representing Supervisor Antonovich’s office, Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist, Palmdale City Council member Steve Hofbauer and Julie Moore representing Supervisor Don Knabe’s office.
The following is a list of upcoming TDA Article 8 hearings scheduled in March and April.
Monday, March 18, 2013, (2 p.m.) Newhall Public Library, Community Room, 24500 Main Street, Santa Clarita.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013, (2 p.m.) American Heroes Park Building, 701 West Kettering, Lancaster.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 (4:30 p.m.) Larry Chimbole Cultural Center, Lilac Room, 38350 Sierra Highway, Palmdale.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 (7 p.m.) Avalon City Hall, 410 Avalon Canyon Road, Avalon.
Those unable to attend the meetings and would like to comment can do so by sending their comments to: Metro Article 8 Hearing Record, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Mail Stop 99-24-1, Attn: Armineh Saint or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments must be received by April 30, 2013.
Looking toward the mountains from Metrolink's Antelope Valley Line. Photo by Spokker Jones, via Flickr creative commons.
Below is a fascinating report below by Metro’s staff on improving Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line that serves Burbank, Sylmar, Sun Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster. Metro is a major funder of Metrolink.
The report is in response to a motion last year by Supervisor and Metro Board Member and First Vice Chair Mike Antonovich, who has been seeking ways to improve travel times on the line. It’s up to a two-hour trip between Lancaster and downtown Los Angeles on the train, with speeds averaging 40 mph — owing to steep mountain grades, tight turns, single track sections and numerous at-grade crossings along the route.
The Metro report focuses on a variety of improvements that could be made along the line to cut some travel time and improve capacity along the route, which is shared by freight traffic and Amtrak. Parts of the corridor may also be served by high-speed rail, which in its new “blended” approach will depend on Metrolink to connect to Union Station from the bullet train’s Palmdale station.
Metro staff are now going to flesh out a plan to move forward on some of the more affordable upgrades, with Measure R and high-speed rail bonds two possible funding sources. Director Antonovich on Wednesday introduced a motion seeking to speed that process and asking for further information about potential Metrolink upgrades, including a Bob Hope Airport station for the Antelope Valley Line, seamless train travel between the Antelope Valley and San Diego and Ventura and Indio. The motion is posted after the jump.
Click on image to try out Metro's new High Desert Corridor Interactive Map.
Metro has just released the “High Desert Corridor Interactive Map,” a Google-based map that invites the communities and all interested to get into the details of the High Desert Corridor (HDC) Project. Once there, you get to share your comments and leave photos of specific areas of interest, such as the alternatives and variations and proposed on/off freeway ramps.
The HDC project proposes construction of a new east-west freeway/expressway linking State Route (SR)-14 in Los Angeles County with SR-18 in San Bernardino County. The project area extends 63 miles over two counties, five cities and several communities.