Video from the Purple Line funding event in Washington last month

Better late than never! Above is a condensed version of the many, many speakers at the Washington D.C. event on May 21 where Metro and the Federal Transit Administration finalized a deal for $2.1 billion in a federal grant and federally-backed TIFIA loan to help pay for the construction of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension.

RELATED:

New Purple Line Extension provides construction timeline and other key info

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 4

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A 'CPR Block Party' was held by the EduLife Institute at five Metro Rail stations on Tuesday, including Union Station. The idea was to train as many people as possible in CPR, a very good cause. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A ‘CPR Block Party’ was held by the EduLife Institute at five Metro Rail stations on Tuesday, including Union Station. The idea was to train as many people as possible in CPR, a very good cause. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

DTLA businesses semi-win lawsuit against Regional Connector (Curbed LA)

The U.S. District Court ruled last week that work on the project is allowed to continue but that Metro must amend the final environmental document to explain why the agency is using cut-and-cover tunneling methods — and not other methods of tunneling — on Flower Street between Fifth and Seventh streets. Here is Metro’s statement:

Metro is pleased the Court upheld its analyses and mitigation of the environmental impacts of the Regional Connector Project. In the one area that requires further environmental documentation to explain why alternative tunneling methods on lower Flower Street are infeasible, Metro will follow the Court’s directive to meet and confer with the Plaintiffs and to file a joint report by June 20, 2014 regarding Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief. Metro will continue to provide the public with information on the infeasibility of alternative tunneling methods for the lower Flower Street portion of the Regional Connector Project through the environmental review process.”

 

And here is the court ruling:

Primary election results narrow candidates for Metro Board (L.A. County Registrar)

Each of the five Los Angeles County Supervisors are guaranteed seats on the Metro Board of Directors, the 13-member board that has the final say over agency policies, budgets and projects. In the two races to replace term-limited Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, the field of candidates has been narrowed. In the first district currently represented by Molina, Hilda Solis captured more than 50 percent of the vote and won, according to unofficial results. In the third district represented by Yaroslavsky, Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver were the two top vote-getters.

In the 33rd Congressional district, where the route of the Purple Line Extension under Beverly Hills High School was briefly an issue, the finalists are Elan Carter and Ted Lieu.

Union Station plans would alter and preserve (LAObserved) 

LAObserved editor Kevin Roderick moderates a panel discussion last week at the Los Angeles Public Library on the history and future of iconic Union Station. It’s appropriate: the station just celebrated its 75th anniversary in early May and this week new details were released by Metro on the emerging Union Station Master Plan, which seeks to preserve the historic nature of the station and add improvements to serve growing crowds of riders who use the station. Here’s a podcast of the event.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti paves the way for ‘Great Streets’ (Daily News) 

The mayor on Tuesday announced 15 sections of streets in the city — one per council district — that will get refurbished to attract more pedestrians. The Daily News talks to council members representing the San Fernando Valley and they’re in agreement something needs to be done to attract more businesses to the area. The project has an initial budget of $800,000.

Just how great will those great streets become? That’s the question that Joe Linton asks at Streetsblog LA. He is skeptical — but hopeful — believing it takes more than upgraded signs and shrubbery to make an area shine again.

Evaluating protected bike lanes in the U.S. (National Institute for Transportation and Communities)

This long and academic-minded report comes to the not-surprising conclusion that protected bike lanes in six cities evaluated attract increase bike traffic fairly quickly. And those who already bike, tend to bike more often using the routes.

*******

Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and New York Rangers is this afternoon at 5 p.m. at Staples Center, one block from the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line. Have fun, Kings fans and welcome to the Best Coast, Rangers fans! Say your respective prayers. We like the Kings in five games.

 

New Purple Line Extension presentation provides construction timeline, other key info

The Purple Line Extension held a meeting with the Phase 1 advisory group last week. The Powerpoint presentation given by Metro is posted above with a ton of information on ongoing utility relocations, future construction activity and mitigation plans to keep noise at a minimum, as much as is possible, for those who live and work near the future subway [pdf here].

I’ve also pulled a few key slides to show below (but please see the entire presentation!!!). In particular, I know several readers asked for a construction timeline after Metro and the Federal Transit Administration last month signed a deal providing $2.1 billion in federal grants and loans to help fund the building of the project’s first phase, which is also funded by the half-cent Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008.

The first phase of the Purple Line Extension will run for 3.9 miles between the existing Wilshire/Western station and Wilshire/La Cienega. There will be three new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. The project’s second and third phases will extend the Purple Line to downtown Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and the VA Hospital.

Timelinejpg

 

The following slides describe the basic construction activities that will be taking place over the next nine years.

PileInstallation

Decking

Excavation

StationConstruction

TunnelBoring

Hauling:Staging

There are also 10 slides on noise mitigation strategies. A couple of the key ones are below — but I highly encourage you to look at the entire presentation above for more info about this topic. Metro officials have emphasized to me time and again that while they are seeking extended work hours to get the project open in 2023, they are committed to keeping as much noise as is possible to a minimum, performing the most noisy tasks during the day or early evening and being respectful of surrounding neighborhoods.

Metro officials really want people to understand that a lot of the construction activity will be occurring below street level and out of view. The most disruptive activity is that which happens at street level — at the new station locations and Wilshire/Western where Metro has to open the ground to retrieve the tunnel boring machine and the extension must be connected to the existing Purple Line tracks. Those activities will be restricted by time and location.

As we’ve stated previously, Metro is seeking extended work hours in order to wrap up the surface work as quickly as can be done and then most of the station construction will occur below ground, beneath concrete decking.

Noise1 Noise2 Noise3

There is a wealth of information about the Purple Line Extension on the project’s home page on metro.net. You can receive updates on the project via Facebook and Twitter.

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 30

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Have fun this evening and thanks for riding, L.A. Kings fans!

Beverly Hills appeals ruling that lets Metro tunnel under high school (L.A. Times) 

The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District are appealing a Superior Court ruling earlier this year that upheld the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension. The city and school district are unhappy that the subway’s route will tunnel under a part of the Beverly Hills High School campus and have also filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration that challenges the federal environmental documents for the project.

Judges in both lawsuits are only deciding whether Metro has to redo the environmental studies (or part of them) for the project. The judges are not deciding the route for the subway. Metro staff recommended and the Metro Board of Directors adopted a route under the high school campus to avoid earthquake fault zones along Santa Monica Boulevard and to reach a station in the heart of Century City that will be easier for more workers and residents to reach.

Readers react: make driver pay for HOV lane access (L.A. Times) 

A trio of letters about the opening last week of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways. One calls for making the lane a toll lane, one says authorities need to do a better job of keeping vehicles with single motorists out of the lane and the other calls for monorails spanning the pass to provide transit.

 

In expansion of No. 7 line, one problem: an elevator (New York Times)

The project is expected to open later this year and will extend the 7 Line from Times Square to 11th and 34th on the far western side of Manhattan. The project would have opened last year if not for problems involving a diagonal elevator designed to be more convenient for wheelchair users than a traditional elevator. The article does a nice job of dissecting the decisions and the contracting that have led to delays in the project, which was originally expected to open while Michael Bloomberg was still mayor.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 28

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Editor’s note: Hello Source readers. I’m traveling this week and will be mostly away from the blog — but wanted to catch up to the news of late. Regular programming resumes next Monday!

Metro fares will increase despite protests of low-income riders (L.A. Times)

Good story covers all the bases in last Thursday’s vote by the Board of Directors to raise the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75 this fall while including two hours of free transfers — meaning some riders may see a fare decrease. Many others, of course, will not. Excerpt:

Riders’ advocates said the increase will disproportionately hurt minority passengers, who make up about 80% of bus ridership. More than 90% of Metro riders are low-income, with an average household earning less than $20,000, according to agency data.

“Do you even understand how much we’re struggling day by day?” said Hee Pok Kim, a 92-year-old woman who could barely see over the public comment lectern. She spoke in Korean through a translator. “When we reach out to you for help, you shouldn’t push us away. You should grab our hands.”

We received a lot of comments and questions on the fare increases on The Source. I’ve answered the inquiries that I could. Metro officials are preparing answers to other questions and we will have all the information on the blog soon.

Northbound car-pool lane opens on the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass (Daily News) 

Coverage of the opening of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 on Friday. Excerpt:

As many as 300,000 cars and trucks pass over the 405 Freeway each day — a number that may rise by 50 percent to 447,000 by 2025, federal transit officials say.

The car-pool lanes have become the primary tool for adding capacity to such aging freeways with little room to grow, according to Caltrans. The state has 1,400 miles of car-pool lanes, or 40 percent of the nation’s total, with more than 800 miles in Southern California.

Similar car-pool lanes are being added along the 5 Freeway between Santa Clarita and downtown, with plans for continuous HOV lanes through Orange County.

In Los Angeles, each average car-pool lane can ferry 3,100 people in 1,300 vehicles per hour — nearly double the number of motorists than in a regular lane, MTA officials say. Together, some 322,000 cars containing 750,000 people car-pool across Los Angeles County each day, making it the busiest HOV lane system in the country.

Officials hope those numbers will grow as more car-pool lanes are added and more commuters opt to share rides as the legendary traffic worsens across the region. A new express bus may be in the works between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

 

We’ll be keeping tabs on the studies for the express bus. As for the numbers above about increases in traffic, it will be very interesting to see if those kind of numbers come to pass. They certainly make a good argument for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, which aims to provide transit across — or perhaps under — the Pass.

LA gets Purple Line transit money but will Angelenos leave their cars? (KPCC)

The headline doesn’t quite match the story, although there’s some of the usual skepticism about investing in transit in a city renowned for getting around by car. Elected officials from our region point out — rightfully, I think — that building an alternative to sitting in So Cal’s infamous traffic seems like the smart and kind of obvious thing to do.

I also think the last four graphs are the most important. Excerpt:

Transit construction is booming across LA County. By years’ end, there will be a record five rail lines under construction, funded in part by $3.5 billion in federal grants and loans.

The competition for future federal dollars to finish those projects will be tougher. LA got one in ten TIFIA loan dollars over the past two years. Measure R gave the region a head start, but now states and local communities across the nation are also competing for the loans. In fact, attending the Wednesday press conference was a public radio reporter from Alaska who says her state wants a shot at TIFIA money for a major bridge project.

Senator Feinstein says there’s another “boogeyman” out there that could prevent LA from getting future funding: sequestration. If Congress returns to its cost-cutting solution that mandates across the board cuts, funding for future transportation projects – including extension of the Purple Line to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood – will be in jeopardy.

The Purple Line is scheduled to reach La Cienega Blvd. by 2023. It won’t reach the VA until 2035. The project is projected to cost $2.8 billion.

There is, of course, Measure R money available to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood. But federal loans and grants profoundly help and it won’t be good news if those things end up being in short supply.

The myth of the magic bus: the weird politics and persistently weird logic of the Orange Line (Streetsblog L.A.)

Writer Roger Rudick argues the Orange Line should have been a rail line and is not the success that some claim it to be as it’s often running at capacity. He argues that for the same cost — $324 million or $23 million per mile — the Orange Line could have been rail, citing the cost of a couple other rail projects in the U.S., including the Sprinter in northern San Diego County. Lots of interesting debate in the comments.

As far as light rail construction goes in Los Angeles County (the chosen rail technology here thus far), the cost has proven in recent times to be a lot more than $23 million a mile. The least expensive of the ongoing projects is the Gold Line Foothill Extension with a $735-million budget for 11.5 miles of rail and some of the cost of building the rail car maintenance campus in Monrovia.

Planning for Expo Line in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Officials are planning to modify traffic signals along Colorado Avenue to give Expo trains priority and allow them to run every five minutes eventually. That’s potentially good news for those who plan on taking the train all the way to downtown Los Angeles (and beyond) and want speedier commutes and less waiting time for trains. It’s refreshing to see cities give signal priority to transit — as signal priority has proven to be an issue on the aforementioned Orange Line and the first phase of the Expo Line.

Remembering the designer who changed the way that we think about transit maps (The City Lab)

A nice tribute to graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, who died Tuesday at the age of 83. He was known for more minimalist designs and his map of the New York City Subway endured for most of the 1970s before being replaced with a more literal design.

Google’s next phase in driverless cars: no brakes or steering wheel (New York Times) 

With progress slow on cars that allow humans to take over driving from the computer, Google is exploring another strategy: smaller, slower cars that lack a steering wheel, brake and gas pedals and gear shifts. Most interesting sentence in the article: “The front of the car will be made from a foamlike material in case the computer fails and it hits a pedestrian.” Hmm.

No MetroCard needed (New York Times) 

A good story about the relationship between real estate and bicycling in New York City. Excerpt:

As the search for more affordable real estate in New York City pushes deeper into neighborhoods that were once considered out of the way, bicycle lanes are taking on new importance. Since 2007, the city has carved out more than 350 miles of bike lanes in the five boroughs, according to the Department of Transportation. As a result, the distance from the nearest subway or bus stop has become less of a drawback for the two-wheeled set, particularly in transit-challenged areas of Brooklyn like Red Hook, Greenpoint and parts of Bushwick. In a twist to the real estate catch phrase, location, location, location, brokers say, bicycling is beginning to influence some real estate decisions.

“Your housing options change when you buy a bike and use it,” said Lyon Porter, a sales and leasing director of Town Residential, who relied heavily on a fixed-gear Dutch cruiser when living in Williamsburg several years ago and continues to cycle frequently around the city. “People get so much more for their money in this tight, compressed market,” when freed from the need to be near a train line, he said. “Your definable boundaries are different on a bike.” Without one, he said, “your map changes.”

Metro will hold advisory group meeting for Purple Line Extension on May 27

Metro will be holding an advisory group meeting for the first section of the Metro Purple Line Extension on Tuesday, May 27. Staff will provide an overview of anticipated construction-related noise and vibration, and background on upcoming pre-construction surveys for properties along the alignment between Wilshire/Western and La Cienega.

Meeting details:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014  5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd – 4th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90036

This location is served by Metro lines 20, 720, 217, 780. Validated parking is available in the structure behind the museum. Motorists should enter the parking structure from Fairfax and bring their parking ticket with them.

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Purple Line Extension secures $1.25-billion federal New Starts grant and $856-million federally-backed loan

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

IMG_20140521_105020_591 (1)

The signing of the funding documents this morning. From left, Metro Board Member Ara Najarian, Board Member Pam O’Connor, Metro CEO Art Leahy, Rep. Janice Hahn, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Board Chair Diane DuBois, Rep. Grace Napolitano, Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky and Federal Transit Administration Chief Counsel Dorval Carter.

Officials from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration signed a pair of agreements this morning in Washington D.C. for a $1.25-billion federal grant and a $856-million federally-backed loan to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway under Wilshire Boulevard. We’ll post video of this morning’s event later.

The agreements clear the way for construction activities to begin later this year on the 3.9-mile addition to the Purple Line, which currently terminates at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. The first phase of the project will extend the line to the intersection of Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be included in the first phase: at Wilshire and La Brea Avenue, Wilshire and Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire and La Cienega.

The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in 2023 with a project budget of $2.821 billion. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled this summer to select a contractor to build the first phase. The subway is one of 12 transit projects funded in part by the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by more than two million voters in Los Angeles County in 2008 (the measure passed with 67.93 percent approval).

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaking at the signing this morning in Washington D.C.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaking at the signing this morning in Washington D.C.

Utility relocations are already underway on the first phase and a 75-foot-deep exploratory shaft has already been dug across the street from LACMA in order to validate and learn more about soil conditions in that area. A number of fossils were found, identified and preserved during the excavation of the shaft.

The second phase of the project will extend the line to Century City in 2026 and the third phase to Westwood in 2036. Metro continues to explore ways that the second and third phase of the subway project and other road and transit projects may be accelerated from their original Measure R timelines.

The federal New Starts program is providing the $1.25-billion grant; the money will be appropriated to Metro on a year-by-year basis by Congress. The New Starts program helps local transit agencies build large and expensive transit projects.

The $856-million loan is coming from the TIFIA program that helps provide low-interest loans backed by the federal government to build new infrastructure; TIFIA helps reduce interest costs. The TIFIA program was expanded by Congress in 2012 to include transportation projects and is part of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative to expand federal funding for transportation projects.

Metro also secured a $670-million New Starts grant and $160-million TIFIA loan earlier this year to help fund construction of the Regional Connector, a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line in downtown Los Angeles to speed trips throughout the county and to downtown.

Here’s video of Metro CEO Art Leahy talking about the significance of today’s announcement:

The news release from Metro is below:

Delivering on the Promise of Measure R

L.A. METRO RECEIVES  AGREEMENTS FOR NEARLY $2 BILLION IN FEDERAL GRANTS AND LOW-INTEREST LOANS FOR PURPLE LINE EXTENSION PROJECT

Los Angeles, Calif. – Marking an historic vote of confidence in Metro Rail subway construction in Los Angeles, The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today joined federal, state and local elected officials to announce the receipt of a $1.25 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for the first nearly four-mile, $2.821-billion segment of the long-awaited Metro Purple Line Extension Project toward West Los Angeles.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation simultaneously granted Metro a low-interest loan of $856 million from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Loan to complete the funding package for the first phase of the project. Combined, the nearly $2 billion in project commitments represent the single biggest federal transportation investment in the history of Los Angeles County.  The remaining $821 million in project funding includes Measure R, City of Los Angeles, and other existing local and federal funds.  

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 20

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! 

My horrible, hopeful L.A. commute (Zocalo Public Square) 

Columnist Joe Mathews writes about his three- to four-hour daily journey that involves starting in South Pasadena, driving to Arcadia to drop the kids at pre-school and then turning around driving 30-plus miles to his office in congested Santa Monica. It’s quite terrible, Mathews writes. But there’s hope. Along the way he has been watching the progress of the Gold Line Foothill Extension (which will stop in downtown Arcadia) and the Expo Line (which will stop in downtown Santa Monica) and can foresee the day he could use those rail lines to travel between the San Gabriel Valley and the Westside. Both rail lines are forecast to open in early 2016.

He’s also a proponent of the ExpressLanes, which he uses on the 10 freeway east of downtown. They save him time, Mathews writes, and he hopes that Metro uses the toll money to make more transportation improvements in the region.

Building a better downtown Long Beach (Longbeachize) 

Among the ideas for improving Long Beach’s downtown offered here: conversion of one-way streets to two-way thoroughfare, a bike share program, selling un-used public space to the private sector, less parking and transforming part of the Terminal Freeway to park space.

The two-way street proposal is interesting — one-way streets do a better job moving traffic but some folks argue that two-way streets are safer, better for pedestrians and provide better access to businesses. Curiously, the Blue Line doesn’t get a mention even though it loops through downtown Long Beach, is Metro’s most heavily ridden light rail line and offers a direction connection to downtown Los Angeles and Metro’s growing rail system.

Candidates spar over subway route during debate (L.A. Times) 

Candidates for County Supervisor in the third district (currently occupied by Zev Yaroslavsky) discuss the route of the Purple Line Extension through Beverly Hills. Of course, it’s somewhat of a moot point. The Metro Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration approved the project’s environmental documents — including a route — in 2012. Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge upheld the validity of the documents, ruling for Metro in a state lawsuit brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. A federal lawsuit brought by Beverly Hills and the BHUSD is, however, pending.

Former transportation secretary to join investment firm (New York Times)

Ray LaHood is joining Meridiam, a firm that specializes in investing in public infrastructure projects. One of his new colleagues will be Jane Garvey, a former chief of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Corralitas Red Car land step closer to becoming a park (L.A. Times) 

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land is in negotiations with the landowner to buy the 10-acre strip of land in Silver Lake that once served as the right-of-way for Red Cars traveling between downtown Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank. A purchase would end decades of controversy over the land, with neighbors repeatedly turning back attempts at development.

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 9

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LAX takes steps to alleviate traffic in what could be a record-setting year (Los Angeles Newspaper Group) 

The airport is on track to break its record of 67.3 million passengers in a year, set in 2000. The article looks at discussions by the Board of Airport Commissioners earlier this week on numerous future improvements that are being studied, including the automated people mover and a consolidated rental car facility that would be a mile east of the airport. The people mover would also stop at a transit hub where passengers could be picked up and dropped off — and would also connect to Metro light rail (precisely where is under study as part of the Airport Metro Connector project). The hub would reduce the number of private vehicles entering the Central Terminal Area horseshoe while the rental car facility would eliminate the need for the bus shuttles chronically circling the airport.

As reporter Brian Sumers notes, there are still environmental reviews to be done and it could be years before construction begins on anything. If you don’t feel like fighting traffic to the airport, I strongly recommend trying the LAX Flyaway bus that runs from four locations — Union Station, the Expo Line’s La Brea station, Westwood and Van Nuys — to the LAX terminals for one-way fares between $8 and $10.

Beverly Hill Unified’s legal fight against Metro against Purple Line paid for with school construction bonds (L.A. Register)

The school district has spent between $3.1 million and $4.1 million in its lawsuits against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration challenging the environmental documents and route for the Purple Line Extension project, which will go under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. District officials say it was necessary to spend the money from Measure E bond school improvement program to preserve the ability to build underground on the campus, whereas Metro has said that the subway tunnels won’t be in the way of any planned structures.

Beverly Hills Councilman Willie Brien says it’s time to drop the fight against the subway route and focus on mitigations and protections for the campus. A Superior Court judge in March ruled in favor of Metro in the BHUSD and city of Beverly Hills’ state lawsuit against Metro. A lawsuit by both the district and city against the Federal Transit Administration is pending.

Next section of high-speed rail route approved while state waits for bond sale appeal (Associated Press) 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve the 20,000-page environmental document detailing the route and mitigations for 114 miles of track between Fresno and Bakersfield. The Board had previously selected the route for a much shorter stretch between Fresno and Madera. Excerpt:

The environmental document includes plans to address air quality during construction, add green space to compensate for damaged habitat and prevent the spread of the highly contagious fungal disease known as Valley fever. The complex review is required to comply with state and federal environmental laws and has been in the works since 2011.

Disturbing native soils is thought to be one way to spread the fungus that causes Valley fever, thus the reason it was studied. The route approval is a big step for the project, although the sale of state bonds to fund construction is on hold due to a lawsuit challenging whether the project as approved matches promises made to voters in 2008.

The Authority still must approve the environmental studies that outline how the train would travel between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. The route under study would involve tunneling under Tehachapi Pass and then would roughly follow the tracks that parallel the 14 freeway through the Antelope Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains before reaching the San Fernando Valley.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 7

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Just a reminder, there’s a reason they haven’t begun digging the 710 tunnel (Streetsblog L.A.) 

The foremost reasons are that the environmental review process is still far from complete and the more expensive alternatives under study for the SR-710 project — in particular a tunnel or light rail line — are not fully funded. But Streetsblog editor Damien Newton says the real reason is lack of any kind of broad-based support for such a project. He also takes another shot at tonight’s Zocalo Public Square forum on the 710, intimating that it will be a Metro-sponsored rally for 710 expansion although conceding that “it’s possible that tonight’s discussion will take a different turn.” One correction: The event at MOCA in downtown L.A. is free and is near the Red/Purple Line’s Civic Center station and numerous Metro bus lines. It’s only $9 for those who choose to drive and to park at Disney Hall.

MTA may have tough time getting federal rail money past House GOP (L.A. Times) 

Republicans in the U.S. House are proposing spending cuts to the federal New Starts program that helps local agencies pay for large transit projects. That could impact $200 million in next year’s federal budget for Metro’s Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension projects. Excerpt:

Raffi Hamparian, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority director of federal affairs, said county officials would work to increase the amount when the House committee acts on the bill in coming weeks or to win approval for a higher amount from the Senate, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sits on the Appropriations Committee.

“It may be that the Senate is going to come in with a solid number that fully funds the program, and we don’t have a problem,” Hamparian said. “But the bottom line is, a low number adds uncertainty, and we don’t like uncertainty.” [snip]

“We’re determined to get these projects built, on time and on budget,” Hamparian said. “Los Angeles County voters have repeatedly stepped up to fund these projects, and we look forward to Congress meeting us halfway to get these great American infrastructure projects built.”

L.A.’s plan to make Figueroa a ‘complete street’ makes sense (L.A. Times)

The editorial backs the city of Los Angeles’ plans to put four miles of Figueroa on a road diet between downtown L.A. and Exposition Park, meaning that two traffic lanes could be lost and replaced, in part, with protected bike lanes and other improvements to help pedestrians and bus riders. Businesses, including USC, have pushed back. The Times says that’s a bad idea and that transferring some of the improvements over to Flower Street (which runs parallel to Figueroa) would be a bad idea.

How tolls could prevent a U.S. transportation crisis (The Atlantic Cities) 

With the federal Highway Trust Fund in perpetual crisis mode, Eric Jaffe writes that it’s encouraging that President Obama is proposing to allow states set tolls on their portion of the interstate system to pay for maintenance. The proposal would also allow some toll money to be used for public transit. My three cents: the interstates have been toll-free for so long that it’s going to be a mighty tough sell to get this past Congress and to get states to go for it, even if they have the permission to set tolls.