Four years later: the status of Measure R transit projects

Work on the Measure R-funded Expo Line Phase 2 along Olympic Boulevard in Santa Monica. Photo by Expo Line Fan.

We’re one week shy of the fourth anniversary of the passage of Measure R by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The half-cent sales tax approved for 30 years upended everything: a host of transit and road projects that otherwise lacked funding suddenly had some dollars behind them.

Or to put it in less bureaucratic terms: projects such as the Westside Subway Extension were basically dead — it was a nice idea that lacked one cent in funding. Measure R gave it life.

To put it mildly, there’s a lot of balls in the air at Metro right now because of Measure R. To help all of us remember what-is-where, I’ve put together a brief status update for the transit projects covered by Measure R. I’ll write about some of the road projects later this week.

Before launching into this list, a quick sentence about Measure R: It’s not just building projects. The sales tax increase also provided money for bus and rail operations as well as local transportation projects by returning 15 percent of Measure R proceeds to local cities and unincorporated areas. Here’s the full Measure R expenditure plan.

Also, a word about completion dates for projects: they are subject to change depending on funding (not all the money is coming from Measure R), construction timelines and other factors that impact large infrastructure projects. It’s also important to note that the Measure J ballot measure proposes to accelerate some projects scheduled for the second and third decades of Measure R. More information is available here.

Measure R transit projects

Orange Line Extension: The four-mile extension of the Orange Line busway between Canoga Park and Chatsworth opened this summer. Originally slated to receive Measure R funding, the project was finished on-time and on-budget and didn’t need the Measure R dollars.

Expo Line Phase 2: The 6.6-mile extension of the Expo Line light rail from its current terminus in Culver City to 4th & Colorado in Santa Monica is under construction by the Expo Line Construction Authority. The projected completion date of construction work is late 2015. Project website

Gold Line Foothill Extension: The 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line light rail from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border is under construction with work being overseen by the Foothill Extension Construction Authority. The estimated completion date for construction is late 2015. Project website

Crenshaw/LAX Line: The 8.5-mile light rail line between Exposition Boulevard and the Green Line is in the final design phase and Metro is in the process of accepting bids from contractors that will be hired to build the project. The completion date for the project under Metro’s long-range plan is 2018. Project website

Regional Connector: Environmental studies were finished earlier this year for the 1.9-mile underground light rail line in downtown Los Angeles that will connect the Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line. The project is in the final engineering phase and utility relocation work is set to begin. The estimated completion date for the project is 2019 under the agency’s long-range plan. Project website

Westside Subway Extension: Environmental studies were completed earlier this year for the nine-mile extension of the Purple Line from Wilshire/Western to the Westwood/VA Hospital. The project is in the final design phase and utility relocation work will soon begin. The estimated completion date for the first phase to La Cienega Boulevard is 2022 or 2023. Under the agency’s long-range plan, the completion date for phase two to Century City is 2026 and 2036 for phase three to the VA Hospital. Project website

Metro Airport Connector: Environmental studies for a transit connection between the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the airport terminals are ongoing; the project is in the draft environmental study phase. Among the alternatives being studied are bus rapid transit, light rail and a people mover along with the usual no-build and transportation system management improvements; here’s a post from earlier this year. The estimated completion date under Metro’s long-range plan is 2028. Project website

Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2: The project is considering transit improvements in the corridor east of the Eastside Gold Line’s current terminus in East Los Angeles. Among the options being studied in the ongoing draft environmental impact statement/report are an extension of the Gold Line to either South El Monte or Whittier and the usual no-build and transportation system management improvements. The estimated completion date under Metro’s long-range plan is 2035. Project website

South Bay Green Line Extension: The draft environmental impact statement/report for the project is currently being prepared. Among the alternatives under study are a 4.6-mile extension of the Green Line to a proposed transit center in Torrance and the usual no-build and transportation system management improvements in the corridor. The estimated completion date for the project under Metro’s long-range plan is 2035. Project website

East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor: The project proposes north-south transit improvements in the San Fernando Valley between Ventura Boulevard and either the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station or the I-210 Freeway.  The Alternatives Analysis  is evaluating bus rapid transit and light rail options — on either Van Nuys Boulevard or Sepulveda Boulevard or some combination of both — as well as the usual no-build and transportation system management options. The estimated completion date for the project is 2018. Project website

Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor: An initial systems study that identifies transit and/or highway concepts that could connect the San Fernando Valley to the Westside of Los Angeles via the Sepulveda Pass area is nearing completion. Among the concepts being studied and refined are bus rapid transit, rail, managed freeway lanes and a tolled highway and transit tunnel; please see this Metro staff report for more information. The study area extends from LAX area in the south to the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station in the San Fernando Valley. The estimated completion date under Metro’s long-range plan is 2039. Project website

West Santa Ana Branch Corridor: The transit project would connect Santa Ana in Orange County and Union Station in Los Angeles using (in part) former streetcar right-of-ways. The Southern California Association of Governments has finished a draft alternatives analysis, which considers several alternatives, including bus rapid transit, light rail and maglev trains. The estimated completion date under Metro’s long-range plan is 2027. Project website

16 replies

  1. I’m sorry to those living east of Azusa.

    Although a seamless connection to Ontario Airport on the Gold Line would be nice. But a Pasadena to NoHo gold line extension would serve more riders, in that area, as well as by others passing through.

  2. @Peter

    The “acceleration” within five years would include the design and planning going into the projects such as an EIR, transportation options/route planning, preliminary engineering, etc. that must take place before the shovel hits the dirt. Actually building and having the different routes completed in five years is impossible, the details, unfortunately or fortunately, take years to sort through but they could be accelerated into the near future.

  3. Nathaniel,

    Unfortunately, it would take far more money than Measure R has for the Sepulveda Pass Project to build a rail tunnel. You can’t build a $3B project with just $1B. Probably the only way we see rail here is if a toll tunnel is also built with it to help supply the necessary funds.

  4. “That’s where the rubber truly meets the road. ”

    Or, if you’re building the RIGHT projects, it’s where the steel meets the rail 🙂

  5. Sepulveda pass MUST be rail. It must NOT be bus. If it’s bus, you will have wasted a fortune, spent more than you would for rail service (bus tunnels require more work than rail tunnels), and got nothing for it: people will preferentially take the Red Line and change to the Expo Line (as they already are doing) rather than take the bus.

    The toll highway tunnel option is even stupider. Someone has been deliberately manipulating the analysis for this to avoid the one and only sane option, which is a rail tunnel. 5 of the 6 options — everything except rail — should have been rejected for the fatal flaw of *not serving the purpose* of fast transport across the Sepulveda pass. And there should be multiple rail options.

    The obsession with studying asphalt-pouring, fossil-fuel-burning, rubber-tired alternatives even when it makes no sense whatsoever is really damaging to public transportation in the US. I am fairly sure that the legal requirments to study these stupid, mindless options were pushed by the oil companies, because nobody else benefits. They should not be taken seriously.

  6. Hi Steve:

    The ballot description for Measure J says it will “accelerate construction of light rail/ subway/ airport connections within FIVE [added emphasis] years not twenty.” How can Metro build all of those projects in FIVE years with a staff its size, even with the added help of Measure J ? Please share the analysis that supports this timetable of five years.
    Thanks !

  7. @AD

    Metro does not have enough money allocated for most or even all of the other projects that they have in their long range plan. I don’t believe that Metro has definitely said what the SFV project will be.

    The 2 major candidates for LA city major, Gruel and Garcetti, have said within the last week that they want rail through the 405/Sepulveda pass which would align perfectly with the ESFVTC. Sylmar would be the perfect place to put the needed maintenance facility.

    • Hi folks;

      The ESFVTC isn’t dead in the water but obviously a choice will have to be made about what it is and how much that will cost. If it’s rail, a lot of funding will be to be found beyond what’s available in Measure R.

      While it’s great to hear the mayoral candidates actually talking about transit — the winnter will have four seats on the Metro Board — I would suggest pushing them to talk about how they intend to pay for it. That’s where the rubber truly meets the road.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. There needs to be a “Burdale Connector”, from North Hollywood’s red line terminus to the gold line in Pasadena.

    This job-rich corridor is underserved; From NoHo to Burbank Airport and Burbank’s Media District to downtown Glendale and Pasadena.

    We could go from Chatsworth to Azusa without going Downtown LA. I know Metro was studying this a few years ago – there was an article in the Daily News.

    Any update?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Mike;

      No news on this front — I’m unaware of anything but I will ask the planning folks. But I completely agree connecting Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena is important and among the missing links transit-wise around the county. There’s obviously transit in the corridor but you and many other customers have let it be known that it needs to be better, faster, etc.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  9. ESFVTC seems to be dead in the water, at least in rail form. Metro personnel communicated that light rail wasn’t likely as there hasn’t been any allocation of funds and the track record of Metro making major investment in the Valley isn’t promising. But the bus route option is possible and will eventually overlap with the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor bus route.

    The other projects look to be doing great. In our life times, we’ll likely be able to go from Riverside County to the Ocean to Orange County on subways and light rail. That’s a big network.

  10. Hi Steve,
    Appreciate the work you do to educate the public with The Source.

    These dates you’re giving us… They are assuming Measure J does not pass?

    When will these projects finish if it does pass?

    I’m surprised you’d update us on completion dates less than a week before we know if Measure J is approved by the voters.

    • Hi Mike;

      Correct, those are the current dates without Measure J. If approved, the idea is to try to finish all the transit projects by 2025. Here’s a fact sheet by Metro.

      I wanted to do the post with or without J on the ballot because it was the last presidential election when R was approved and I wanted to show what’s happened since then on all the projects. It’s worth noting that two are under construction, three are in final design and/or utility relocation and we should have a better idea about a few of the others in the next couple of years as the enviro studies move along. I can’t advocate for or against J, but I do think those voting deserve to know where everything’s at presently.

      Please fire away if any more questions about the projects. These are just brief summaries.


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. I’m confused… how can both East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project (which is in the alternatives analysis stage) and the Crenshaw/LAX Line (accepting bids for construction) both be slated to complete by 2018?

    • Hi Jeff;

      I think the thing to keep in mind with Crenshaw/LAX Line is that it’s a fairly complex projct, involving tunneling and aerial structures. It’s yet to be determined what the ESFCTC will be but I don’t think any of the alternatives are as challenging as Crenshaw.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source