Metro to publicly finance HOV toll lane project for Santa Clarita Valley

i5_project_map

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.

 

Board of Directors motion asks Metro to make renewed effort on public-private parnterships to fund transpo projects

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.

City of Santa Clarita holds ribbon cutting for Sand Canyon/SR-14 Beautification Project

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.

City of Santa Clarita holds ribbon cutting ceremony for Old Town Newhall Roundabout

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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.

City of Santa Clarita breaks ground on new Sand Canyon Road/SR- 14 Beautification Project

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.

Amgen Tour of California stops in Santa Clarita during Bike Week LA

Cyclists with Magic Mountain in the background. Photo from Santa Clarita Tour of CA 2013 Official Facebook

Cyclists with Magic Mountain in the background. Photo from Santa Clarita Tour of CA 2013 Official Facebook

The City of Santa Clarita will be one of the host cities for the 2013 Amgen Tour of California next week, which also happens to be Bike Week LA. The city will be the site of the Stage 3 Finish on Tuesday, May 14, and the Stage 4 Start on Wednesday, May 15.

There will be a series of events to celebrate the bicycle race, including a viewing party at Salt Creek Grille, SENSES Rock the Bike, and Bike to Work Day. Don’t miss the Lifestyle Festival on Tuesday, May 14, which will take place at the Westfield Valencia Town Center at the corner of Citrus and Magic Mountain Parkway, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Check Santa Clarita Transit for public transportation routes.

Traffic will be impacted on local roads during the course of the event, keep reading after the jump to see the details.

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Public hearing next week on proposal to build HOT lanes on I-5 in Santa Clarita area

I-5 HOT lanes meeting notice

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.

Metro to hold public hearings on unmet transit needs in North County and City of Avalon

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 sainta@metro.net. Comments must be received by April 30, 2013.

To accelerate the building of 13.5 miles of HOV lanes on I-5 in Santa Clarita area, Metro proposes charging tolls for vehicles with one or two occupants to use the lanes

I5_project_map

Metro this month is providing key details on plans to accelerate an important Measure R project for northern Los Angeles County. The project would add carpool lanes for 13.5 miles in both directions to Interstate 5 through the Santa Clarita area. A toll for vehicles with one or two occupants (at peak hours only for vehicles with two occupants) would be charged to use the lanes — with the tolls being used to finance the construction of the carpool lanes about 30 years earlier than planned in Metro's long-range plan.

There's a lot more detail in the Q & A that follows in the post. The absolute crucial details: the lanes would be managed to maintain speeds of at least 45 mph, the number of general traffic lanes would remain the same and the new lanes will add capacity to the freeway, especially when coupled with the new truck lanes being built on either side of the Newhall Pass.

There are two community meetings scheduled this month to discuss the project. The public can ask questions and provide feedback. Content at all meetings will be identical; please attend the location most convenient for you. All meetings are open to the public and we urge you to invite your friends and neighbors.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, 6-8 PM
Sports Complex – City of Santa Clarita
20880 Centre Pointe Pkwy
Santa Clarita, CA 91350
Served by Santa Clarita Transit Lines 5 and 6

Thursday, February 28, 2013, 6-8 PM
Rancho Pico Junior High School
26250 Valencia Bl
Stevenson Ranch, CA 91381
Served by Santa Clarita Transit Line 7

Below is the Q&A on the project with a lot more detail and there's a short Power Point on the project after the jump. I'm interested in your thoughts on the project, particularly if you live in Santa Clarita or elsewhere in northern L.A. County.

What exactly is the project proposing to do?

The project would use a public-private partnership to build one carpool/toll lane in each direction to the I-5 freeway for 13.5 miles between the 14 freeway and Parker Road. A private firm would be hired to help fund, build and manage the lanes and be paid back with toll revenue. That would allow the project to be completed by 2019 instead of 2040 or later.

This stretch of freeway includes some of the fastest-growing areas in Southern California — the city of Santa Clarita has gone from 79,000 people in 1979 to more than 201,000 in 2012 and is expected to add 50,000 more people in the next 30 years, not including growth in the unincorporated parts of the Santa Clarita Valley. Not surprisingly, traffic congestion in the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas has worsened; the average one-way commute time of 32.7 minutes for Santa Clarita residents is among the highest in Los Angeles County.

The carpool/toll lane will be used for free by those in cars with three or more passengers. Buses, van pools and motorcycles would also use the lanes for free. Cars with two people will be able to use the lanes for free outside of peak hours — during peak hours they will be charged a toll. Single motorists will be charged a toll at all times.

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Groundbreaking ceremony held for new McBean Park-and-Ride

Local officials break ground on the new McBean Parkway Transit Center expansion today in Santa Clarita. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.

Local officials break ground on the new McBean Parkway Transit Center expansion today in Santa Clarita. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.

The McBean Regional Transfer Station will soon be expanding with a new McBean Park-and-Ride. The project will include 282 new parking spaces that are much needed as other park and ride lots in the Santa Clarita area and at nearby Metrolink stations are at full capacity.

“With $2.97 million MTA Call for Projects funding, the new McBean Park and Ride will be another vital link in our county-wide transportation system,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Chairman of the Metro Board. “Santa Clarita Valley commuters will be able to carpool or vanpool from here, as well as connect with local Santa Clarita transit buses, Metrolink and express buses into the Los Angeles region.”

Currently, the McBean Regional Transit Center connects Santa Clarita’s local and express buses to major destinations throughout Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley, Westwood, Century City, Union Station, and downtown Los Angeles. The new park and ride will also add two more passenger loading areas for express bus boarding, along with lighting and bike lockers.

Metro provided 50 percent of the McBean Park-and-Ride project cost, programming $2.97 million through the 2007 Call for Projects.

Metro CEO Art Leahy talking at the groundbreaking today. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.

Metro CEO Art Leahy talking at the groundbreaking today. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.