The Metro Board approved plans Thursday for up to 35 crossing gates and two busway and bicycle grade separations for the San Fernando Valley’s Orange Line. Plans will greatly improve both safety and performance and prepare the bus line for its future conversion to light rail.
The project, funded with $286 million in Measure M taxpayer funds and $75 million in SB-1 state gas tax funds, is slated for groundbreaking in 2019 and opening in 2025. Metro will install up to 35 at-grade railroad-type crossing gates along the 18-mile busway between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.
Gates would be like those used on the Metro Gold, Blue and Expo light rail lines and will be installed on all sides of the intersection to reduce or eliminate potential auto versus bus intrusions or collisions. Crossing gates will also enable buses to safely increase their intersection operating speeds from approximately 10 to 15 miles per hour to 25 to 45 miles per hour.
Plans also call for building two busway and bicycle grade separations at Van Nuys and Sepulveda boulevards — the two busiest Valley streets along the corridor. Stand-alone bridges will physically separate buses and bicyclists from automobile and pedestrian traffic below. New aerial stations would be built on the bridge.
All improvements are expected to cut travel times by approximately 20 percent between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.
“The Orange Line has been a spectacular success since the first day it opened to the public. We are now planning short- and long-term investments to take this popular Valley transit line from rubber wheels to steel wheels, making it much safer, faster and capable of accommodating more riders in the years ahead,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Sheila Kuehl.
Metro will work closely with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to ensure crossing gates operate as efficiently as possible. Metro will explore operating buses at longer headways with two-vehicle platoons to increase passenger capacity while minimizing the frequency of gate activation and resulting delays to cross traffic.
“One of our strategic goals is to provide high-quality mobility options that enable our customers to spend less time traveling,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Our planned improvements for the Orange Line will save riders precious time as we continue to build fast, reliable and high-capacity transit for the residents of the San Fernando Valley.”
The project is part of Metro’s Twenty-Eight by ’28 Plan to complete 28 major road, transit and bicycle projects before the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in the L.A. area.
The State of California has made a commitment to fund more than $1.8 billion in projects for Metro over several years as part of SB-1, the state’s “gas tax” and vehicle fee transportation funding program approved by the Legislature in 2017 and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. Funding awards represent the largest allocation of SB-1 funds in California to date.
Metro is now actively developing six major transit projects in the San Fernando Valley over the next decade: Metro Orange Line Improvements, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, the Sepulveda Transit Corridor, All Zero-Emission Orange Line Buses, North Valley Bus Rapid Transit, and the North Hollywood to Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit Project. Two of these projects – the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor and Sepulveda Transit Corridor Projects – are planned to connect directly with the Orange Line at either Van Nuys or Sepulveda stations. Metro planners are now actively coordinating to ensure that these stations will be able to accommodate all prospective rail line connections.
The Orange Line is scheduled to be converted to light rail by 2057. Metro is now exploring ways to accelerate conversion of the line via public-private partnerships.