A 9.2-mile light rail line between the Orange Line’s Van Nuys Station and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station was approved by the Metro Board of Directors today as the “preferred alternative” for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. Here is the Metro staff report.
The new rail line would run mostly down the center of Van Nuys Boulevard and along the railroad right-of-way that is adjacent to San Fernando Road. The line would have 14 stations with an end-to-end travel time of 31 minutes. Metro staff determined that light rail was faster, offered more capacity and would better serve the community in the future than bus rapid transit (BRT), the other type of transit under study for the project.
Van Nuys Boulevard is the second-busiest bus corridor in the San Fernando Valley and seventh-highest in the Metro system. The rail line would also offer transfers to/from the Orange Line, several busy Metro bus lines, Metrolink, Amtrak and two future Metro projects — the Sepulveda Transit Corridor rail line and the North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit project.
Demographics also played a significant role in the staff’s recommendation. Transit dependency, population density and poverty are all higher in the project’s study area than in the urbanized part of L.A. County as a whole. The area’s population and number of jobs are both expected to rise in the coming years.
The light rail maintenance and storage yard will be located between Raymer and Keswick Streets in Van Nuys, which will require the acquisition of 37 commercial parcels — the least of any of the three options considered. Metro studied three potential sites for a Maintenance Storage Facility along the corridor, and Option B received the most community support, whereas Option A received hundreds of comments of opposition.
The project is slated to break ground in fiscal year 2021-22 and open in 2027. This project is also part of Metro’s Twenty Eight by ’28 Plan, which seeks to ensure that 28 major projects are completed in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in the Los Angeles area.
A separate project — the Sepulveda Transit Corridor — is looking at a variety of rail options to run between this project, the Orange Line and the Purple and Expo Lines on the Westside. Initial concepts for that rail project were released earlier this month, including one concept that would have light rail on the East San Fernando Valley project continue south and tunnel under the Santa Monica Mountains to the Westside. Other concepts include heavy rail (trains that are wider, longer and faster) or monorail trains that would allow for transfers to the East San Fernando Valley line.
The staff recommendation for light rail — which is widely supported by community residents and stakeholders — is quite a milestone for a project that originally was supposed to be a bus lane project as part of Measure R. Throughout the project’s planning studies, the community spoke up in favor of rail — and Metro ultimately listened.
Project funding includes over $800 million from Measures R and M, over $200 million from the Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) gas tax and vehicle fee increases that became law in 2017 and over $200 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Construction is projected to cost $1.3 billion.
Work will now begin on the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report (FEIS/R). That is scheduled to be completed in 2019 to be followed by design and engineering, utility relocation and the selection of a contractor to build the project.
In the Board Committee’s Planning Committee, Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker asked for a Metro staff report with the project’s FEIR on how Metro intends to run this line on Van Nuys Boulevard, citing some of the issues Metro has had with the Blue Line, which also runs at street level for long stretches.