Metro staff seeks approval to secure federal funding for Phase 2 of Purple Line Extension subway

Pre-construction is already underway on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, which will stretch the subway from its current terminus at Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard with new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. Earlier this year, Metro received $2.1 billion in federal grants and loans for the first phase and the agency this summer picked a contractor to build the project.

In the meantime, Metro is beginning to turn its gaze toward the project’s second phase, which will extend the tracks to a downtown Beverly Hills station and a station at Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard Century City. In the above report, Metro staff are asking the Metro Board for approval to seek federal funding for phase two in the form of a $1.1-billion grant from the federal New Starts program and a $307 million low-interest loan from the federal TIFIA program.

The target date for completion, with the federal funding, would be 2025. That’s one year earlier than the original target date for the second phase (the first phase to La Cienega Boulevard is forecast to open in 2023). Pursuing more federal funding as quickly as possible has other advantages — offsetting a higher cost estimate for the project, as the report explains.

The Purple Line Extension is also funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The full Metro Board of Directors will consider the staff proposal for Phase 2 funding at its Oct. 2 meeting.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 26

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! 

Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t the only person attending the Emmy Awards on Monday who took Metro to the Nokia Theatre. The above photos were taken at the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line and located one block from Staples Center and L.A. Live. Photos by Josh Southwick/Metro.

Jimmy Kimmel takes the subway to Emmy Awards in downtown L.A. (L.A. Times)

Pretty amazing to see the social media hoo-ha that breaks out when a celeb steps onto mass transit, particularly in a city that (undeservedly, IMO) is not exactly known for its local rail system. That said, it’s a nice shot of free PR for Metro and if Jimmy Kimmel can be an urban pioneer and figure out how to get a TAP card from the ticket machines, so can many others! See our post with his tweets and some reaction from riders.

BART’s early warning earthquake system could have broader applications (San Francisco Appeal)

The system that has been in testing since 2012 provides a 10-second warning that a temblor will occur, which agency officials say is enough time to significantly slow trains to help prevent derailments. Funding a broader system could also help slow motorists, warn surgeons and give just enough time to others to make a difference, say supporters of the system. Seems to me that any kind of warning is better than none.

Reworked projects to bring 320 apartments to the Arts District (Downtown News) 

The development was actually downsized after community members protested that it was too large for the Arts District. If the project near the intersection of Santa Fe Avenue and 7th Street gets built, it’s another big boost in the number of people living in the Arts District — particularly with the large One Santa Fe development nearing completion. Reporter and transit activist Roger Rudick responded to the news on Facebook with this: “If we don’t get that subway station in the Division 20 Yards and 6th Street we’re going to be trapped back here.”

As some folks know, Metro’s subway maintenance yards are along the Los Angeles River in the Arts District — that’s where the trains go when they’re out of service at Union Station. There has been occasional talk over the years about building a platform for the subway in the yards to serve the Arts District. Nothing has happened yet but as the neighborhood grows, I’m guessing there will be more demand for subway service — it could be an easy ride through Union Station to the rest of downtown and beyond — along with some inevitable concerns about the subway bringing too many people into the neighborhood. We’ll see… :)

L.A.’s demand-based parking moving in exactly the right direction (KCET)

City of Los Angeles officials say that their ExpressPark Program in DTLA is resulting in slightly lower average prices and more parking spaces being occupied. There’s some doubt as to whether that’s because of the demand-based system that adjusts meter prices or a reflection of an improving local economy and more people driving downtown. Nonetheless, the system will soon expand to Westwood and it’s the kind of thing that academics such as UCLA’s Donald Shoup have long been advocating.

Lost in America (New York Times)

Columnist Frank Bruni riffs on recent survey results showing that Americans have record low views when it comes to the federal government. More troubling, Bruni writes, is that Americans no longer believe that their children’s generation will fare better than their own, a reversal of a long-held American dream. Excerpt:

And it suggests that this isn’t just about the economy. It’s about fear. It’s about impotence. We can’t calm the world in the way we’d like to, can’t find common ground and peace at home, can’t pass needed laws, can’t build necessary infrastructure, can’t, can’t, can’t.

In the Journal/NBC poll, 60 percent of Americans said that we were a nation in decline. How sad. Sadder still was this: Nowhere in the survey was there any indication that they saw a method or a messenger poised to arrest it.

It’s a tough one. I’m 48 and feels to me that the world has been in some type of turmoil at very regular intervals throughout my life. On the home front, feels to me that most people I know have very little interest or enthusiasm when it comes to Washington D.C.

Thanks for riding to the L.A. Kings victory parade, hockey fans! A few pics for you…

Thanks everyone for riding Metro today to the victory parade and celebration for the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Championship. Looked to me like a big turnout — perhaps more people than for the 2012 parade.

If you would to download full resolution versions of any of the above photos of the Kings, they’re available on Metro’s Flickr page. To download, click on the “….” on the right side of the screen and then choose “download/all sizes” and then select the size.

See you in September, hockey fans!

Metro explores new green energy options: placing a wind turbine in a subway tunnel

Photos: Evan Rosenberg/Metro

You’re standing on a subway station platform, waiting for the train. Suddenly, the wind picks up. You know this means the train is coming. Many of you may also know why there’s wind: it’s displaced air being pushed through the tunnel by the fast moving train. And some of you — including Tom Kefalas, Metro Environmental Compliance and Services Manager — may have wondered if there was a way all that generated wind could be utilized as a renewable energy source.

Thanks to Tom Kefalas and Cris Liban, Director of Metro Environmental Compliance Services, we now know the answer is yes. From August through September 2013, Metro conducted a one-month pilot program to see if wind energy could safely and effectively be captured and used. The project involved working with engineers from WWT Tunnel, LLC, a subcontractor to Arcadis U.S., to create and install a unique 10-foot multi-blade mass airflow collection equipment (MACE) in the Red Line tunnel. To our knowledge, this is the first time a transit agency has tested the effect of having a wind turbine in a subway tunnel.

The MACE was installed between the North Hollywood and Universal City stations, a segment of the tunnel that sees trains reaching speeds of up to 70 mph. Each time a train left the station, the MACE fan blades would start spinning, thus capturing energy up to a minute before the train actually passed by. The blades would continue to spin up to 2 minutes after the train passed, and exceeded 1,070 revolutions per minute (RPM). The amount of electricity produced by these train initiated events was nearly double the amount that had originally been anticipated.

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About 135 trees to eventually be removed for Purple Line Extension

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Mexican fan palms to be removed near the future Wilshire/La Cienega station in Beverly Hills.

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Plane trees in the city of Los Angeles to be removed for subway construction.

As we move deeper into the era of construction for Measure R projects, we’re also going to be writing more about the inevitable work impacts of building transit and road projects.

And thus today’s news: about 135 trees — about 34 in Beverly Hills and 101 in the city of Los Angeles — will eventually have to be removed and later replaced along Wilshire Boulevard to accommodate work on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway.

Most of the trees to be removed are in the area where three new stations will be excavated: Wilshire and La Brea, Wilshire and Fairfax and Wilshire and La Cienega. Metro says it will plant two trees for every one that is removed.

The bulk of the tree removals are still about a year away and will be managed by the future contractor. However, in the next month or so, Metro is seeking to remove two Mexican fan palms from the median of Wilshire just east of Detroit (near the Wilshire/La Brea station site) for pre-construction work — specifically, fiber optic utility relocation. The agency has also submitted draft Master Tree Removal Plans to both Beverly Hills and Los Angeles and will work with both cities toward agreement on a final plan.

Of the trees to be removed, many are not in good shape and Metro officials say likely would not survive transplanting. None of the trees are protected, historically significant or belong to threatened species, although some of the Mexican fan palms to be removed are taller than 50 feet (Mexican Fan palms are a very common tree planted in cities in warm weather locales in the U.S.).

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Mayor Garcetti’s news release on $200 million in federal funding in next year’s budget for Metro projects

Here’s a news release from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on the good news in President Obama’s recently-announced budget for the next fiscal year:

GARCETTI ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDING IN PRESIDENT’S BUDGET; URGES CONGRESS TO PASS MULTI-YEAR FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION BILL

LOS ANGELES–Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that President Obama’s FY 14-15 budget contains $200 million for critical Los Angeles transportation projects — $100 million each for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. He also urged Congress to take immediate action to pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.

“Especially in these tough economic times, you have to prove to Washington that you’re going to deliver real results,” Mayor Garcetti said. “This funding represents the White House’s recognition that our transit program will spend money wisely, create thousands of jobs, and make a real difference for L.A. commuters. Now, it’s time for Congress to act and pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.”

The President’s proposed budget funding follows Los Angeles’ recent win of a $670 million Federal New Starts Full Funding Agreement Grant for the Downtown Regional Connector, which brings together the city’s various rail lines to make transfers convenient, dramatically improving the rider experience.

The Westside Subway Extension project will extend the subway from the current Wilshire and Western station terminus 3.9 miles to Wilshire and La Cienega. The subway project will create 25,000 jobs.

 

The funding in the budget is from the federal New Starts program, which helps local transit agencies pay for expensive transit projects. The deal for Regional Connector funding from New Starts was finalized last month and the agreement for the Purple Line Extension should be soon completed. New Starts money is awarded by the government over several years, thus the $100 million in next year’s budget for each of the projects.

Photos of the exploratory shaft being dug in preparation of Purple Line Extension construction

Click on any photo to see larger.

My colleague Dave Sotero and I had a chance today to visit the exploratory shaft being dug as part of the Purple Line Extension subway project. If you’ve been to LACMA recently, you may have noticed the big wall covered with Metro posters across the street. That’s the exploratory shaft.

It’s quite a feat. The shaft is already 65 feet deep and is being dug to learn more about soil conditions in the area and validate what is already known. The work is an important step in preparing for station excavation and tunneling for the subway.

Quite a few fossils have already been found, including clams, sand dollars and parts of the cone and seeds for digger pine trees. While we were there, in fact, a rock was found that appears to have a sea lion skull within it that is perhaps two million years or more old. Metro is working with the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits to identify and preserve the fossils found.

We’ll post lots more about the shaft soon. In the meantime, Channel 7 should have a segment on the work being done as part of tonight’s newscast. See KABC 7’s story here. 

Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

Kim Scott, Director of Paleontology for Cogstone, a Metro project consultant, holds a rock that appears to contain the skull of a sea lion, perhaps two million years or more old. It was unearthed Tuesday afternoon during excavation of the exploratory shaft for the Purple Line Extension subway project. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.