Funding included for Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector in federal spending bill for 2014


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Good news for the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector, the pair of Metro projects slated to receive money this fiscal year from the federal New Starts program. The projects are set to receive $65 million each in the 2014 fiscal year.

New Starts helps local transit agencies fund large projects and Congress appears set to fund New Starts for fiscal year 2014. The federal program is currently helping to fund over two dozen projects around the United States. New Starts is also an annual target for some critics, so it’s good to hear that it is being fully funded in fiscal year 2014.

Overall, the Purple Line Extension’s first phase is due to receive about $1.25 billion and the Connector $675 million in New Starts money. Both projects are also receiving money from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008, as well as a federally-backed loan program called TIFIA.

The cost of planning and construction of the first phase of the Purple Line is budgeted at $2.86 billion while planning and construction of the Regional Connector is budgeted at $1.42 billion.

The New Starts money is awarded to transit agencies on an annual basis — the money isn’t awarded all at once, thus the reason that both the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector are set to each $65 million in this fiscal year’s spending bill.

Here is coverage in the L.A. Times today and here is the update from Metro’s government relations staff:

House/Senate Spending Bill For Fiscal Year 2014 is Made Public –Full Funding Included for New Starts Program

Moments ago, the details of H.R. 3457, a bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014 was made public. The bill, which includes a funding level of just over $1 trillion, will likely be voted on first by the U.S. House of Representatives and then later this week by the U.S. Senate. The bill includes the following language regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation’s New Starts program:

CAPITAL INVESTMENT GRANTS – The bill appropriates $1,942,938,000 for new fixed-guideway projects. Combined with available prior year transit funds, a total of $2,132,000,000 is available for new start activities.

This level of funding is adequate to fully fund the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget request of $65 million for the Purple Line Extension and $65 million for the Regional Connector. The bill issued this evening also increases funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s popular TIGER grant program to $600 million, an increase of $100 million over last year.

And here are the New Starts project profiles for both the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector.

A pair of nice views from Santa Monica Mountains of the route of the future Purple Line Extension along Wilshire Boulevard

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Click on photo see larger. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

In an attempt to burn some holiday-induced blubber yesterday, I made the short but scenic hike to Temescal Peak in Topanga State Park from the Palisades Highlands. As it happened, there were pretty nice views of the route the Purple Line Extension subway will take between downtown Los Angeles (left) and Westwood (right).

The above photo almost has the entire route beginning with the Federal Building at the far right of the photo, then extending to Westwood Village and then veering south to Century City. At that point, the subway’s route will rejoin Wilshire Boulevard, which is easily seen in the photo as the developed corridor linking Century City to downtown L.A.

Below is a much wider view that shows the entire route. The subway will actually terminate on the western side of the 405 freeway near Wilshire Boulevard and the front of the VA Hospital. (Here’s a narrower view of Century City and downtown L.A.) The first phase between Wilshire and Western and Wilshire and La Cienega is ramping up for construction and is forecast to open in 2023.

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The Santa Ana Winds were blowing yesterday, contributing to the smog. It was still nice to be able to see three major peaks — from left, San Gorgonio (at 11,503 feet the highest peak in Southern California), San Jacinto (at 10,834 the highest peak in Riverside County) and Santiago Peak (at 5,689 feet the highest point in Orange County). 

Although off-topic, the hike also offered a nice view of Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley (below). That street is a major transit corridor serviced by two Metro bus lines, the 240 Local and the 741 Rapid.

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And the sunset view wasn’t shabby either. That’s Santa Barbara Island, one of the Channel Islands. If you look real hard, I think that’s San Nicolas Island on the horizon on the right side of the photo.

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If you want to download full-size versions of any of these photos, please visit our Flickr page. Click on the photo you want, then click on the “…” at bottom right, click “view all sizes” and then choose “original” on the next screen and then download.

Here is the latest presentation on the Purple Line Extension’s first phase, including a construction timeline

Oct 2013 Mtg Presentation_102513.pdf

Above is the presentation given at a meeting Tuesday night of the Purple Line Extension’s Section I Advisory Group.

There isn’t anything dramatically new in the presentation, but it does provide a nice summary of various activities taking place as the project gets ready to start construction next year for its first phase between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega.

One slide I’ll pull out because it’s bound to get the most attention:

Oct 2013 Mtg Presentation_102513

I’ve already heard from a few people with similar questions along the lines of “any chance it will be done before 2023?”

There’s always a chance. That said, Metro is still in the midst of choosing a contractor to build the project, which is in itself a formidable task. The agency still, too, must lock down a federal funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for part of the project (Measure R is also a big contributor). The project is looking to get that squared away in early 2014.

The good news is that while those administrative tasks are being done, utility relocations have begun along the alignment and Metro is also doing further work to evaluate soil conditions and look for other obstructions that may be found underground. The point of this preparatory work is to gather as much information possible to avoid surprises and/or obstacles that could delay work. (Here is a recent post about the search for tiebacks near the Wilshire/La Cienega station).

Another issue that will impact the construction timeline is safety. It is — as it should be — the highest priority for Metro.

One other item that bears discussing: Metro has had a “Master Cooperative Agreement” with the city of Los Angeles for several years and is in the midst of hammering one out with the city of Beverly Hills.  These agreements lay out how Metro and the city will work together during construction, including each parties’ responsibilities, timelines, and how Metro will reimburse the cities for their time.

Metro also wants permission to work longer hours — peak periods, nights and holidays — in order to get street level work done as quickly as possible and move construction underground — because underground work has far less impacts on traffic and quality of life. Please see this earlier post for more information about permits and work hours for the Purple Line Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Regional Connector.

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Here is the Metro staff report on new project acceleration plan to be considered by agency’s Board of Directors this month

Metro project acceleration plan

The Metro Board of Directors this month will consider a project acceleration plan that, on average, would lop an average of 10 years off the time it takes to build second and third decade Measure R transit and road projects. It’s a big deal for many reasons — the foremost being that it could allow the taxpaying public to enjoy the investments they’ve made in local transportation a lot sooner than originally planned.

The Metro staff report that explains the plan is above.

In order to best explain the plan being proposed by Metro staff, it helps first to understand two fundamental truths about Measure R, the half-penny sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The plus side of Measure R was that it provided funding to a long list of transit and road projects, many of which were long sought by the region but lacked funding. Measure R remedied that — and is the reason that five new rail lines will be under construction simultaneously by the middle of this decade along with a host of highway projects, including the widening of the I-5 between the 605 and the Orange County line.

Measure R, however, also posed a challenge. The sales tax would last for 30 years — from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2039 — and the construction of projects it funded were staggered over that three decade span. The third phase of the Purple Line Extension, for example, is currently scheduled to open in the mid-2030s, meaning the future children of current Bruins may be able take the train to campus. In other words, it’s a long time from now. The is true not just for the Purple Line, but for other lines to the Eastside, the South Bay, Southern L.A. County, the Westside and the San Fernando Valley as well.

It’s precisely for this reason that the Metro Board of Directors adopted a policy in 2010 to accelerate projects if possible under the America Fast Forward plan, which proposed an expansion of low cost federal loans for transportation nationwide. Besides the obvious benefit of getting to ride or drive on projects earlier, acceleration may also allow Metro to save on construction and borrowing costs (recently both have been at historic lows due the Great Recession but may now be starting to rise) and to create much-needed jobs.

I’ll better explain the new acceleration plan in a moment, but first a very important caveat: Approval by the Board doesn’t guarantee that any transit or road project would be accelerated. Ultimately, the plan will depend on Metro’s ability to secure loans and bonds from the federal America Fast Forward program, as well as federal New Starts money. In other words, Congress and President Obama must act to expand the amount of loans and bonds available to transit agencies around the United States and to provide federal New Starts to Los Angeles County.

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Here is the presentation from Thursday night’s Purple Line Extension community meeting

Purple Line Extension June meeting PPT

Above is the PowerPoint from tonight’s community meeting for the Purple Line Extension project. The meeting covered the first 3.9-mile segment of the project, which will be built over the next decade and include three new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. Utility relocations are underway with more work to continue in 2014. Major construction is scheduled to begin in 2014; work on the La Brea station will start in the latter half of the year.

Please take the time to scroll through the presentation. A lot of topics are covered, including how Metro will work with businesses and homeowners to reduce construction disruptions, hours that construction may be taking place and construction timelines. There are also slides explaining how stations will be excavated and decked to help keep car traffic moving while work continues below ground.

The next big milestone for the project will be the awarding of a construction contract, which is scheduled to happen later this year. Digging will also soon begin on an exploratory shaft that is across the street from LACMA and will provide Metro with data needed to refine station and tunnel design in the area.

Reminder: Purple Line Extension community meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at LACMA West

A friendly reminder from the Purple Line Extension team:

Residents, businesses and property owners near Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega are especially encouraged to attend.

Please join Metro as we prepare for construction of the first section of the Purple Line Extension.

Thursday, June 6, 5:30-7:30pm
LACMA West – 5th Floor Terrace Room
5905 Wilshire Bl, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Served by Metro Lines 20, 217, 720 and 780.

Validated vehicle parking is available in the Museum’s 6th St undergroundgarage. Enter from 6th and Ogden.

ADA Accommodation

Special accommodations are available to the public for Metro-sponsored meetings. All requests for reasonable accommodations must be made at least three working days (72 hours) in advance of the scheduled meeting date. Please telephone the project information line at 213.922.6934 or California Relay Service at 711.

 

Metro to hold community meeting for Purple Line Extension project on June 6

Here is the news release from Metro:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will hold a community meeting to discuss preparation for construction for the first section of the Purple Line Extension on Thursday, June 6, 2013 from 5:30-7:30 p.m at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard in the fifth floor Terrace Room.

Environmental planning has concluded and approvals have been received, allowing work to move forward toward bringing the Purple Line Extension to the Westside.  Construction of the first section of the subway extension will begin in 2014.  Extending from its current terminus at Wilshire/Western, this section adds three new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.  Continue reading