Metro Board of Directors vote on key items

The Metro Board of Directors met this morning at agency headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. The agenda was on the light side compared with recent months, but some decisions were made on a few key items:

•In response to a motion by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Board voted 11 to 0 to authorize an audit of Metro’s litigation expenses. The audit was prompted by a story published last month by the Los Angeles Daily Journal in which it was reported that Metro has spent 15 years and $32 million in a court case trying to recover about $10 million in alleged losses from the construction firm Tutor-Saliba. The audit is expected to be complete in June.

•As expected after being backed by two committees, the Board approved expanding the draft environmental report for the downtown regional connector to consider another way to get trains through Little Tokyo. This option involves tracks tunneling under Alameda Street and building an underground station in Little Tokyo that would replace the existing Eastside Gold Line station that is at street level. The press release from Metro is posted after the jump.

•The Board also approved delays of up to 19 months on the ExpressLanes project on parts of the 10 and 110 freeways. The conversion of the carpool lanes to toll lanes for single-occupant vehicles may now debut in 2012 as opposed to opening them by the end of this year. Here’s a link to a recent post explaining the delay.

In one other interesting item, Santa Monica Councilmember Pam O’Connor asked for Metro staff to work with the Board about the possibility of adding public restrooms to far-flung transit centers that may be the end or beginning of some long trips for Metro customers.

Measure R Project

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors today approved the addition of a new fully underground light rail alternative underneath Little Tokyo for the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Study now in environmental review.

The new alternative was added to meet the concerns of the Little Tokyo/Arts District Community raised during scoping and ongoing working group meetings.  Community members opposed an at-grade crossing at First and Alameda Streets, asserting the alternative would disrupt street activity in the historic Little Tokyo area.  The new alternative now enjoys full community support, and will consist of two variations for a complete underground crossing at this intersection, keeping trains fully grade-separated.  It also includes an additional underground station. Portals would be built on both First and Alameda Streets to allow trains to surface and connect to the existing Metro Gold Line both to Pasadena and East Los Angeles.

The project team is preparing the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Study/Report (DEIS/R), and will now conduct the technical studies needed to determine costs, impacts and benefits of the alternative projected to cost roughly between $200 million and $300 million.   As part of the environmental review process, planners will consider ways to reduce these additional costs.  The agency is scheduled to present a Locally Preferred Alternative for final environmental review to its Board of Directors later this year.

If fully funded through a combination of local, state and federal funds, the project could break ground in 2014 and open in the 2018-2019 timeframe.

A partially funded Measure R project, the Regional Connector seeks to complete a nearly two-mile transit gap between the Metro Gold Line, Metro Blue Line and future Expo Line through downtown Los Angeles. The project will minimize the need for transfers, reducing one-way light rail trips across the county by 10 to 30 minutes or more.

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