L.A. Metro Releases its recommendation to contract with two private sector teams for pre-development work on the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project

Metro today released its recommendation for two private sector teams to conduct Pre-Development work to advance the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project, a massively complex transportation project that seeks to directly connect the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via high-speed, high-capacity transit line.

In March, Metro will ask its Board of Directors to approve two multi-million-dollar contracts to perform these services. Read the Board Report here and here’s a presentation which has route maps.

Two different fixed guideway technologies will be further developed as possible transit solutions for the corridor. Metro is recommending LA SkyRail Express for its proposed monorail concept and Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners – Bechtel for its proposed heavy rail concept. Both proposals present benefits and trade-offs and will be refined further, based in part on public feedback and the environmental process moving forward.

At its sole discretion, Metro retains the ability to move forward with one of the private sector teams, if any, if its transit concept is ultimately chosen as the project’s locally preferred alternative, or LPA.

One of the private sector teams may have an opportunity, after the LPA is selected and once project development is complete, to submit a proposal to build the line, potentially accelerating construction and improving project performance.

Metro has long sought to pursue an innovative partnership model known as a Pre-Development Agreement (PDA) to enable early contractor involvement in the project. It allows for innovations in design, engineering, construction approach, financing and operations.

Under this unique project delivery approach, Metro aims to bring the expertise and creativity of the private sector to the table early, when critical design and engineering decisions can have the greatest impact on the project’s ultimate success.

After selection of the LPA by the Metro Board, Metro would have the opportunity to invite the successful partner team, if any, whose solution aligns with Metro’s LPA to submit a proposal to deliver the project, likely through a public-private partnership. Metro would also retain the right to pursue a different project development and delivery path.

After contracts are awarded, Metro will review both proposed concepts as part of its environmental review process starting this fall. Public input is a critical component and will be solicited and collected for all alternatives studied during the environmental review period.

Metro originally issued an RFP for Pre-Development work in October 2019.  Four prospective teams submitted proposals for Metro’s PDA contract opportunity, representing strong private sector interest in the project.  The recommended firms committed to meet Metro’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, or DBE, goals in Metro’s Request for Proposals.

Source readers may have some questions about the proposals:

What are the next steps in the planning process for the project? 

The environmental phase will begin with a scoping period in the fall of this year. After the scoping period, we will begin working on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR). Completion of the DEIR will be followed by public hearings, and ultimately by the Metro Board’s selection of a LPA.

What is the scoping process?

Project scoping process is the 30-day period at the beginning of the environmental process during which project planners identify existing issues that a new project will address and alternatives that will be considered. Scoping is also when criteria are identified that will be used to evaluate the project alternatives. During scoping, the project will solicit public input regarding the type and extent of environmental analyses to be conducted.

What is a PDA?

A PDA is a project delivery method that provides an opportunity for early private sector participation in the design of a project in partnership with Metro. PDAs can be used on particularly complex or challenging projects to bring innovation and problem-solving early in the design process, when the most decisions that impact the success of project delivery are often made.

Under this approach, a selected contractor team provides technical work to support the project development process. This takes place in parallel to environmental review and approval process, which is entirely overseen and directed by Metro. The development of the project will incorporate technical analysis and public feedback into design decisions, with multiple “off-ramps” where Metro can choose to shift to a different delivery approach. If the partnership is successful in defining a feasible project that is selected by the Metro Board as the LPA, Metro may engage with the PDA team to agree to an approach to build the project.

Will I be able to learn more about the PDA concepts before the Board votes?

Yes. This month’s Board Report is only a receive and file item. The Metro Board is not scheduled to vote on the staff recommendation until March 25, giving the public time to learn about the concepts. Metro will actively seek public input during the official scoping period coming this fall.

What is the dollar value of  the PDA proposals?

Metro will recommend a PDA contract with L.A. SkyRail Express for an amount not to exceed $63.6 million and a PDA contract with Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners – Bechtel for an amount not to exceed $69.8 million.

How would Metro pay for the project?

The Sepulveda project is funded in part by Measure M, the transportation sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2016. The total project will receive $9.5 billion in funding from Measure M and other local, state and federal sources. A funding plan for the proposed concepts will be developed through the PDA and environmental processes.

How has Metro encouraged innovative transportation ideas from the private sector?

Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington spearheaded the agency’s creation of an Unsolicited Proposal policy in 2016.  This policy enables private sector firms to offer Metro their ideas for doing things differently to improve mobility in L.A. County. Leveraging private sector perspectives and expertise to co-develop solutions is a win-win-win for Metro, its customers and businesses.  Since Metro’s Unsolicited Proposal policy was adopted, Metro has received over 250 unsolicited proposals, among the first of which were three unsolicited proposals for Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project concepts. These proposals encouraged Metro to pursue a PDA for this project, knowing of the high level of private sector interest. They also demonstrated that this policy is a divining rod for galvanizing active private sector interest in Metro projects of regional significance.

23 replies

  1. They should already omit the Monorail, which is not compatible with existing heavy or light rail lines. They should just go with heavy rail due to amount of passengers and terrain.

  2. Hopefully the heavy rail concept prevails. It’s just more scalable at the end of the day. Why build something that is going to run into capacity problems in one of the most congested and expensive corridors in the state? It’d be even worse than making the expo line brt like they wanted to do. Metro always tries to cheap out on these projects and when they do it ends up being subpar and less compelling than the best alternative.

    I think it’s much more important to build out and operate a smaller network that does its job more effectively. If you look at a map of transit in LA county it looks like you can get *anywhere* but the reality is that its next to impossible to do so in a reasonable amount of time. Metro should stop trying to be everything to everyone and focus on providing value in a core rail network that traces the most congested freeways. Give people a realistic alternative to driving, even if it’s only a partial one. The 405 pass is one of the obvious places Metro can deliver on this kind of goal: to get people out of their cars and into the rail network. Normal commuter people. The kind of people that don’t have to ride Metro but could choose to, if only there were a choice.

    It takes 30 minutes to make it through the 405 pass driving. Or 10 minutes on the train that runs every 10 minutes. What choice do you make? A monorail looks pretty and is cheaper but it is a whole new vehicle class for metro using nonstandard parts on a less-capable system. Just build a normal subway that can connect to the purple line and call it a day. Same cars can work on all the heavy rail. It’s fully grade separated. It just makes a lot more sense. It might not be as pretty but it will work and it will work better. The monorail doesn’t have the capacity to alleviate traffic congestion in the region. A well-built heavy rail subway tunnel can actually make a real difference.

  3. Please release details of the 4 bids, their concepts and proposed costs, as soon as possible, so that the public can learn about the concepts and weigh in. Compared to the 2-3 year timeframe where consensus builds on a locally preferred alternative option for other projects, the PDA process will put the thumbs on the scale for the 2 options from the proposers recommended at this stage, given how costly it would be in time and cost to decline to award a P3 contract to one of the two PDA teams at the end of the process and bid out the project (a process that would add a year or more—this PDA contract started seeking proposals in October 2019 and won’t award a contract until March 2021, for comparison), and the financial pressure to decline them when they’ve prepared financing plans with hundreds of millions of dollars in equity.

    Some questions we need answers to:
    – What are the ridership estimates for the proposed concepts (including recommended and not recommended concepts)?

    – All alignment concepts proposed (including those not recommended) should be made public. Metro studied a monorail concept (MRT1) that would go into a tunnel for UCLA and the Westside. According to the procurement summary, LA SkyRail Express proposes a 100% aerial monorail. What does the aerial alignment look like in LA SkyRail Express’s concept, including the UCLA and Westside connections.

    – According to the procurement summary, the recommended heavy rail proposal from Bechtel has an estimated $10.8 billion capital cost, while Tutor Perini’s proposal (which was not recommended) had an estimated $7.2 billion capital cost. There needs to be a detailed explanation on how the procurement team determined that Bechtel offered the best value, despite costing $3.6 billion more. The procurement summary simply says Tutor’s proposal was not strong in terms of alignment, vehicle type or maintenance storage location. There needs to be more details explaining the deficiencies in Tutor’s proposal. $3.6 billion could help pay for heavy rail extensions to LAX, Santa Monica, down Vermont, etc.

    – Could the Bechtel proposal be modified to use any of the capital cost savings in Tutor’s proposal?

    – More generally, will Metro adapt the cost saving proposals in the various bids, both recommended and non-recommended, to existing projects? All 4 proposals for instance, include proposals for operations with automated trains, and all but Fengate’s proposal propose driverless trains.

  4. Hmm, so for only around 1 billion more than the purple D line extension budget, how can this line be built with enough stations as it should be and at twice the length? Clearly HRT is the best option, not monorail. The budget is surely going to have to be increased. And running elevated down the middle of the 405 south of expo isn’t very good for station access or for noise and pollution for waiting passengers at stations. Is it still theoretically possible to have a fully underground heavy rail south of expo while still having all of the proposed stations? I know that there is an elevated alternative for HRT along Sepulveda here in the valley, which seems fine (and adds a Sherman Way station) and would reduce the cost a bit, except that then it misses Van Nuys blvd. and so doesn’t allow for the express / local type overlap along the planned street-running LRT. Is the P3 expected to handle some of the cost therefore increasing the total cost overhead? Maybe the answer is obvious but I’m a bit unclear.

    • With both the monorail & HRT versions, one of the options for the Westwood – LAX potion was an extension of the Purple Line from the VA south to LAX People Mover station on the Crenshaw line.

      The aerial monorail proposal (agreeably much weaker than heavy rail) does not go south of Westwood or Expo.

      • “The aerial monorail proposal (agreeably much weaker than heavy rail) does not go south of Westwood or Expo.” I hadn’t noticed that for some reason. That’s all the more reason not to choose the monorail concept.

        With the purple line extension option, that could be enhanced if there is a wye junction allowing trains from Van Nuys to merge on to that route so that LAX can get service from both the Valley and Union Station directly. It would add a bit to the cost of course but given the significance of this project, should be added to the budget. The junction should be just east of Westwood / UCLA station if possible, if not, then west of there, between that station and VA. Incidentally the junction would allow for possible direct service from Van Nuys to Union Station as well. The tunnels would obviously need to be curvier between the UCLA north / campus station and the junction but would be worth it.

        • Not sure that’s in the planning (a good idea nevertheless). In your scenario, any wye would have to be east of UCLA due to the proximity of the Veterans cemetery on the northwestern edge of the Wilshire/Westwood station box.

  5. The monorail doesnt appear to get to UCLA or Wilshire/Westwood. Seems much less valuable that way.

    • Better to build it now than wait another half century when traffic and urban density will be even higher and construction costs even more inflated. Any other metro area in the developed world outside the US would already have (or at least be building) high capacity transit along a corridor like this. This is overdue.

  6. HRT makes sense here.

    Monorail would require a new fleet of vehicles to purchase and maintain, and a new class of labor to train.

    The HRT1 option is my preference.

  7. Please dump the monorail Metro. It should have never made it this far. It doesn’t connect to the purple line extension or UCLA, and runs in the middle of a freeway, which will drastically cut ridership and dampen any community enhancement around stations. I thought we all learned from the green line that building along a freeway is a terrible transit investment.
    The HRT is the only way to go. Higher price, although I’m sure the monorail won’t be as cheap as its being sold here, but you get a lot more out of it in term on connectivity and community integration. It will also be automated which might be a first for a heavy rail system in the US. Also with HRT. The D Purple has the possibility of building a link down to a future extension to lax. One seat ride from lax apm to Union station.

  8. The 405 monorail vs heavy rail debate reminds me a lot of the Ginger vs Mary Ann debate: We all want monorail because it looks good initially but once you dig down, not much is there and it’s impractical. Heavy rail isn’t as pretty but it gets the job done and everyone deep down really prefers it because it’s practical and it’s proven to work. Poor Gilligan…

  9. Since my previous post warning about monorails (pointing to a Simpsons episode), I will attempt to post again.
    Monorails can work, but because they are less common, they tend to be more glitchy. They tend to be selected for ideological reasons, not practical reasons. Because they are less common, economy of scale won’t kick in for the rolling stock (and the vendor would have to build a new factory here). They may make sense in a very dense system above roads or over a river. But, far less so through a mountain pass.

    • To further The Simpsons reference, the monorail was really more of a Shelbyville idea.

  10. It should be heavy rail. Anything that will get more people to ride is a plus. Also I know this was never thought about. But maybe we can also have the Red Line extended from North Hollywood to Van Nuys. It will allow more options as time go on.

    • Probably not with the Orange Line finally converting to rail in the pipeline. More than likely it could either be extended to meet with the Light Rail Line at Sylmar via Laurel Cyn and San Fernando Rd, or a simple Extension to Burbank Airport which is something that should have occurred by now and won’t even get a BRT Line.

  11. I thought I read some where that straight tunneling is “relatively” quick and not as expensive as stations, which is like building an upside downtown office building. If the Sepulveda line after a stop at Ventura Bvld, won’t have another stop until UCLA, so a very large part of the this first section will be a straight shot tunnel. Elevated sections on the north end (Ventura Blvd toVan Nuys Station) are suppose to be cheaper than subway , and underground from UCLA to Expo is underground. So maybe for the length of this project , how does it pan out cost wise per mile compared to Wilshire Line?

  12. Just as terrible as not having a stop at UCLA, the monorail proposal doesn’t have a stop a Ventura Blvd. either. Quite frankly, the stop locations for this proposal look like they were chosen for the benefit of NIMBYs, not the actual ridership.

    The ridership needs a UCLA stop AND a stop on Ventura Blvd. The monorail proposal does have a “101 Stop”, but that doesn’t help transit riders. We need the actual stop to be serving Ventura Blvd. to conveniently walk to nearby destination and transfer to busy Ventura Blvd. buses.

    The Bechtel heavy rail proposal at least has the stop locations correct. Whichever technology Metro ultimately goes with, they need to require stops both at UCLA and at Ventura Blvd.

  13. They should go with the underground HRT-1 alignment down Van Nuys. It’s both the fastest and will carry the most people. Win-win in my book. Even if it is the more expensive route it’s worth the cost to get more bodies on the train.

  14. i know this is looking WAAAY ahead, but don’t forget that rolling stock has to bne replaced after 25-30 years, and almost nobody makes off-the-shelf monorail cars compared to regular subway trains (a situation that’s still going to be pretty relevant by that time).