We posted last year about a Measure R project to add tolled HOV lanes to 13.5 miles of the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley between the 14 freeway and Parker Road. Vehicles with one or two occupants would pay a toll while vehicles with three or more occupants could use the lanes for free; tolling the lanes allows the project to be built well before the original Measure R completion date of 2040.
Today we have this update: Metro and Caltrans have decided to publicly finance the project instead of seeking a public-private partnership (known as a PPP). Why? It’s less expensive to publicly finance the project by using $352 million in now-available Measure R and other funds and a federal low-interest loan for $175 million.
Under a PPP, a private firm or firms would have paid for the construction of the project and then been repaid, in part, by collecting and managing tolls from the lanes for 35 years. In this case, public financing will allow Metro to borrow less money and secure a lower interest rate on the needed loan.
This project as originally proposed was also unusual because it included new sound walls for the 210 freeway in Pasadena and Arcadia and the 170 and 405 freeways in Los Angeles, and adding extra lanes for a short stretch of the 71 freeway in Pomona. Under the public financing deal, those projects will be built separately. The toll revenues would be reinvested and used for transit services and traffic operations in the 5 freeway corridor in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The current forecast calls for the HOV lanes on the 5 to open in 2021, the soundwalls to be completed in 2019 and for the additional lane on the southbound side of the SR-71 to be done in 2021 and the lane on the northbound 71 to be finished in 2028.
Interesting motion above that was approved today by the Metro Board. My read on the motion: it’s three members of the Metro Board — Eric Garcetti, Michael D. Antonovich and Diane DuBois — asking Metro to step up its game when it comes to developing public-private partnerships to help fund and build transportation projects.
As the name implies, public-private partnerships are financial agreements between public agencies and private companies. There are several variations of PPPs but generally speaking it means a private firm fronts some of the money to build a project and then is paid back later, sometimes from revenues created by the project.
Metro has a PPP program that has already identified five big projects that might make for good PPPs — the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor (which could involve building a rail line under the Pass to connect the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, a very pricey idea), the High Desert Corridor, the 710 South and 710 North projects and a project that would construct congestion pricing lanes on the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita area. But no deals have been finalized.
It’s hard to discuss PPPs without mentioning what’s happening in the Denver metro area, where voters in 2004 approved a sales tax increase to fund a big transit expansion. A PPP is being used there to build some of the commuter rail projects — including the 22-mile line that will connect downtown Denver and Denver International Airport.
Sound familiar? It should. Both Antonovich and Garcetti have made repeated public statements about the importance of connecting Metro Rail to LAX via the Airport Metro Connector project — a project that will likely need funding beyond the scope of Measure R to be fully realized.
Santa Clarita officials and other local representatives at the ribbon cutting. Photo: City of Santa Clarita Flickr
The City of Santa Clarita held a ribbon cutting earlier this morning for the newly completed Sand Canyon Road/SR-14 Beautification Project. The project included improvements to 3.4 acres with environmentally-friendly landscaping and a water efficient irrigation system.
Officials said that beautification of freeway entry points helps maintain property values and supports the city’s and other business organizations’ efforts to attract targeted companies to the area.
Metro provided $1.352 million for the project through the agency’s Call for Projects.
Vintage cars pass through the brand new roundabout. Photo: Metro
The City of Santa Clarita held a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier today for the Old Town Newhall Roundabout project. The project, located at the intersection of Main, 5th Street and Newhall Avenue, includes installation of a roundabout with landscaping, crosswalks, induction energy saving street lighting and street lane modification to improve traffic flow.
The project cost $2,536,717, of which $702,563 was funded by Metro through Call for Projects. Check out the video below of an aerial view of the roundabout.
Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar joined by the City Council and other public officials for groundbreaking of the Sand Canyon improvement project. Photo courtesy of City of Santa Clarita.
Photo courtesy of City of Santa Clarita.
The City of Santa Clarita broke ground on the Sand Canyon/SR-14 Gateway Beautification Project earlier today. The project is designed to improve 3.4 acres with environmentally-friendly landscaping and a water efficient irrigation system. Metro has provided $1.352 million for the project through Call for Projects.
Here’s the press release from the City of Santa Clarita:
The project will improve 3.4 acres within the Caltrans rights of way at the Sand Canyon north and south bound on and off ramps. Environmentally-friendly landscaping will include sizeable oak trees, shrubs, and grasses, as well as low twisting stone walls and natural colored stone pavers.
The Sand Canyon Road and SR 14 beautification project is part of the City of Santa Clarita’s commitment to beautifying all gateway corridors to provide a positive community image for residents and visitors. Beautification of entry points also helps maintain higher property values and supports the City’s and other business organization’s effort to attract targeted companies to the area.
“This project is part of the City’s overall goal to make significant improvements to major gateways into and out of our community,” commented Mayor Bob Kellar. “I know the residents and commuters who travel this area daily will appreciate the new environmentally-friendly, drought tolerant landscaping that is designed to complement the natural terrain and thrive in this environment.”
This beautification project is a federally funded Metro grant administered through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Responsible for allocating federal, state and local transportation funds to improve all modes of surface transportation, Metro distributes funding through the Call for Projects program and the Sand Canyon Road/State 14 beautification project has a total fund of $1.352 million.
“Our freeways help our region stay mobile, but we should also work to keep them maintained,” said Metro Board Chair and Lakewood City Council Member Diane DuBois. “The Sand Canyon Beautification Project is going to make not just the roadway, but the Sand Canyon area, more inviting. And it’s being funded $1.352 million from Metro’s Call for Projects. When completed, it will make Santa Clarita an even more welcoming place, and best of all it is being done in an environmentally friendly way.”
For more information on the Sand Canyon Road and SR 14 beautification project or the groundbreaking, please contact Gail Ortiz at (661) 255-4314.
The meeting notice is above; the meeting is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. this Thursday, March 28, at Santa Clarita City Hall in the Council chambers.
The project proposes to accelerate the construction of 13.5 miles of HOV lanes by making them HOT lanes — i.e. lanes in which vehicles with one or two occupants would pay a toll (the toll would apply to two-occupant vehicles only at peak hours). Here’s a post with many more details about the project.
The hearing is required because the project’s environmental study, completed in 2009, must be amended to include the newly-proposed HOT lanes.