UPDATE, OCT. 26: The Metro Board of Directors approved launching the formal environmental study process for this project. Under a Board amendment, Metro will also further evaluate the stand-alone grade separations from the technical study as potential project alternatives. Metro will also work closely with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to further study local intersection impacts.
The earlier post:
As part of a key Measure M project to improve the Orange Line, Metro staff is recommending building a new one-mile long bridge between Sepulveda and Van Nuys boulevards and installing more than 30 railroad-style crossing gates along the Orange Line between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.
As the chart above shows, the proposed project: 1) Improves travel times — with the ride between NoHo and Canoga dropping from the current 38 minutes to an estimated 25 minutes and times between Chatsworth and NoHo falling from 50 minutes to an estimated 34 minutes, and; 2) Metro has the $283 million to build it from the Measure M sales tax measure approved by county voters last November.
The first segment of the Orange Line busway opened in 2005 and was built largely along an old railroad right-of-way. Almost immediately, Metro reduced bus speeds at intersections along the busway to avoid accidents with private vehicles (most involved cars that didn’t stop at red lights). The lower bus speeds threw off the traffic light timing, resulting in more Orange Line buses sitting at red lights.
This project would tackle both those issues. The new bridge would eliminate five street crossings and the rest of the street crossings would have ‘four quadrant’ railroad gates that seal off the busway from auto traffic when buses are approaching. The project also proposes to close one minor street crossing — Tyrone Avenue in Van Nuys.
A few other salient points:
•The four quadrant gates would help prepare the Orange Line for conversion to rail. Under the current Measure M spending plan, that isn’t scheduled to happen until the late 2050s. Still, Metro staff views this alternative as the best way to improve current bus travel times, build ridership and prepare for the future.
•The bike path along the Orange Line would be preserved. Between Van Nuys and Sepulveda boulevards, the bike path could either run on a single bridge or could run on separate bridges over Van Nuys and Sepulveda boulevards. All other street level crossings for the bike path would remain.
•The crossing gates are a way to improve travel speeds while minimally disrupting Orange Line operations.
•Staff also determined that gates will not substantially change cross traffic travel times. The technical study — posted below — looked at platooning buses at peak hours so buses would be running every eight minutes to reduce delays. As the report notes, the platooning idea would need to be “further evaluated and approved approved by Metro Operations department.”
Metro staff will ask the Metro Board of Directors in October to approve beginning environmental review and preliminary engineering of the project. There will also be an extensive public outreach process. The goal is to break ground on the project in 2019 and finish it by 2025.
In the meantime, another key project is also in the works: the conversion of the Orange Line to fully electric buses by 2020. More about that in this Source post.
The above slides are from this presentation for the Metro Board:
And here is the Orange Line technical study: