Metro Board meeting preview: several items — including project acceleration — could determine how billions of dollars are spent

June Board meeting agenda

The Metro Board of Directors meeting on Thursday should be both interesting and longer than a cold winter’s night with a broken furnace and no firewood, matches or a blanket. The Board has a lot on its collective plate, including several items that taken together will determine how billions — yes, billions — of dollars will be spent by Metro in the coming years.

As it happens, the items are also indirectly or directly related so please allow yours truly to attempt to explain how the pieces of the puzzle fit together:

ITEM 52 The Board will consider awarding a $1,272,632,356 contract to Walsh/Shea Corridor Contractors to build the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the 8.5-mile light rail line between the Expo Line and Green Line. The Board voted last month to add two optional stations to the project at Leimert Park and Hindry before the staff contract recommendation had been released.

As it happens, the cost of the contract was higher than expected, in part because of the cost of the new stations. That, in turn, has resulted in the overall cost of the project increasing to $2.058 billion. That also means that Metro has to put aside more contingency money — specifically, $160 million.

In order to cover that cost, staff has proposed moving some Measure R funds around: $47 million from the South Bay’s ramps and interchanges project, $47 million from the Airport Metro Connector project, $55 million from the Call for Projects for the Central Area and $10 million from the Wilshire Bus Lane project (an older project not to be confused with the peak hour bus lanes that are scheduled to fully open in 2014). STAFF REPORT

Please keep reading — much more after the jump! 

ITEM 70 The proposal to move the $160 million to the Crenshaw/LAX Line project has been controversial and has caused unhappiness among several cities, including some in the South Bay. As a result, four Board Members are now offering this substitute motion that would pay for cost increases on the Crenshaw/LAX Line and other projects with Prop C funds and/or borrowing against Prop C funds. Prop C is the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 1990.

Which brings us to…

ITEM 12 This item updates the cost of projects in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan, adding more than $1.7 billion to those costs. Much of this — $750 billion — is for a project to keep Metro equipment and facilities in a state of good repair, a priority for Metro CEO Art Leahy. There is also money to cover increased budgets for a number of projects, including the the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.

The main question here is how to pay for the increases and whether Metro could use Prop C or borrow against Prop C to cover these costs. STAFF REPORT

But wait! There’s another wrinkle. Metro Board Chair Michael D. Antonovich has also offered an amendment: he wants Metro staff to issue a report on changing the 405 project’s carpool lanes to congestion pricing/toll lanes to cover the cost over-runs on that project. His rationale is that Metro is seeking to accelerate the construction of new carpool lanes on the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley by making them toll lanes and Antonovich has said that he doesn’t believe it’s fair that one part of the county has to pay for new lanes while the other does not.

Still, the main issue here is the use of Prop C, which relates to….

ITEM 10 This item is a financial strategy that Metro could use to accelerate Measure R projects. Here’s an earlier Source post (including the staff report) explaining the strategy, but the gist of it is that Metro would use an assortment of loans and bonds to accelerate the building of second- and third-decade Measure R projects.

Part of that strategy involves using Prop C to help pay back money that Metro borrows to accelerate road and transit projects.

If you’ve made it this far, then you can probably surmise that Board discussion will likely revolve around the cost of borrowing and whether Metro can afford to accelerate projects while also absorbing increased costs for the Crenshaw/LAX Line and several other projects. That’s the meeting in a nutshell.

In addition, there will be consideration of an amendment by Board Chair Michael D. Antonovich to change the expenditure plan to show the full costs of extending the Gold Line from Pasadena to Claremont. Measure R only funds the line as far as Azusa and project proponents hope that such an amendment would make it more likely that Metro would fund the Azusa-to-Claremont segment as part of any acceleration strategy. The challenge is that other Measure R road and transit projects are also not fully funded.

Bottom line: these are going to be long, technical discussions.

Another consideration, too, is that this is the final Board meeting for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his three appointees (Board Members Jose Huizar, Richard Katz and Mel Wilson), all of whom have been pushing for project acceleration the past few years.

It’s still a big task. Extending Measure R for another 30 years received 66.1 percent of the vote last November in Los Angeles County and narrowly lost, while the State Legislature has discussed — but for now abandoned — efforts to decrease the voter threshold for such votes from two-thirds to 55 percent.

10 replies

  1. Mark A:

    I have checked my facts.

    You forget that Measure R was voted on in 2008

    On page the ordinance
    ( )
    behind the ballot language, there is the direction to “include in Attachement A” a list of items that continue to page 18 “iv. Metro Gold Line (Pasadena to Claremont) Light Rail Transit Extension. The sum of seven hundred thirty-five million dollars ($735,000,000).”

    In 2008, the extension of a light railway from Pasdena eastward was being planned by an entity legally entitled the “Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority” and this was not changed until 2011:

    Notice that there are references in the ordinance to other railways that will be carrying Light Rail trains that may be designated by LA Metro as “Gold Line” service, including the “Metro Regional Connector”, the “Eastside Light Rail Access” and the “Exposition Boulevard Light Rail Transit Project”. Also recall that at the time, the Edward R. Roybal Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension was still being constructed.

    By inserting “(Pasadena to Claremont)”, Metro was protecting against challenges to the $735,000,000 since that railway, which may or may not ever be designated by LA Metro as “Gold Line” service and was still legally designated as part of a the “Pasadena Blue Line”, and helping voters to avoid confusion with other projects under construction at the time, including but not limited to the Edward R. Roybal Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension.

    And further, if you look in Amendment A, which is the “Expenditure Plan” and so is the only thing that matters as that is where the money is defined, you will see that there is no reference to Claremont or Pasadena, just “Gold Line Light Rail Transit Extension”

    Do not forget, as shown by Steve in this post:
    Both Measure R and J failed in all the cities (except Pomona for Measure R) that will be served by phase 2A and, if ever built 2B, of the Foothill Light Rail Transit Extension due to these same local officials having rallied heavily against them:

    Sorry for not understanding why a line that was voted down by the cities in the San Gabriel Valley and only attracts 9000 riders per workday deserves to get $1 Billion out of the $9 Billion that Metro is scraping together after the failure of Measure J.

  2. Calwatch: The Ballot language was thus:
    •Synchronize traffic signals;
    •Repair potholes;
    •Extend light rail with airport connections;
    •Improve freeway traffic flow (5, 10, 14, 60, 101, 110, 138, 210, 405, 605, 710);
    •Keep senior / student / disabled fares low;
    •Provide clean-fuel buses;
    •Expand subway / Metrolink / bus service;
    •Dedicate millions for community traffic relief;
    Shall Los Angeles County’s sales tax increase one-half cent for 30 years with independent audits, public review of expenditures, all locally controlled?”

    I don’t see the word “Claremont” in there. Do you?

  3. Not true, Griswold. You should check your facts before you write. Measure R clearly defines the line to Claremont but didn’t provide the funding to do so. The Foothill Extension to Azusa was nearly shovel ready when Measure R was passed, so the cost estimates were known at the time. You don’t seem to understand how this works.

  4. Actually Measure R’s ballot language does clearly state “iv. Metro Gold Line (Pasadena to Claremont) Light Rail Transit Extension. The sum of seven hundred thirty-five million dollars ($735,000,000).” ($758 million if you the add “other local funding” column.) So the intent was always to go to Claremont, but there was an open question as to where the other funds would come from to get there.

  5. Correction, Measure R granted the independent Foothill Construction Authority $758 million to build a line east of the current terminus of the current Gold Line at Sierra Madre. If that only gets the extension as far as Azusa (and this is not guaranteed until the line is handed over to Metro) it is due to the management of funds by the independent Foothill Construction Authority. Measure R said nothing about extending the current Gold Line to any particular place, and the Foothill Construction Authority has time and again admitted this.

  6. Actually Measure J WAS an extension of Measure R so that was a correct statement. Let’s hope this expensive concept goes the way of the dodo bird or at least until Metro can show that they can be responsible with our money.

  7. For IE commuters to Pasadena, need super early AM bus shuttle (no stops/express only for heavens sake) service from El Monte train depot to Pasadena Major Employers (direct to Colorado Blvd, then Parsons, Caltech etc). Shuttle needs to be dropping off along Colorado Blvd employers by 5:30am-6:am. Need to be assured that exchange at Train Depot is very safe (ie security presence).

  8. State efforts to decrease voter threshold to 55% have been abandoned? Say it isn’t so.