Metrolink received the last batch of Hyundai Rotem cars, thus completing its initiative to replace its entire fleet with safer cars. Dubbed the Guardian Fleet, these cars use new crash energy management technology that better absorb the impact of crashes through crumple zones. Metrolink ordered the new cars in response to the tragic Chatsworth crash in 2008 and the Glendale crash in 2005, which horrifically showcased the shortcomings of the existing Bombardier fleet. However, Metrolink’s work in improving safety and regaining the trust of citizens does not stop there, as the agency continues to install positive train control throughout its network and refurbish the Bombardier cars still in service.
The Metro Board also awarded a nearly $1.3 billion construction contract for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line to Walsh/Shea Corridors Construction, signaling a major milestone for the project. On the table, however, was a proposal to move nearly $100 million dollars in Measure R money to the Crenshaw/LAX line. South Bay leaders decried the possible shifting. Metro justified the proposal by stating that the project partially is within the boundary of what the agency defines as the South Bay.
Officials representing the area charged that Metro quietly changed the boundary in 2009 to include LAX and inferred that the move would purposely shoulder much of the cost for the new line onto the South Bay area. Cities within the sub-region approved resolutions against the proposal, citing the need to use those funds for needed road and highway improvements and that Measure R already have relatively little to offer for the South Bay to begin with. Fortunately, the Metro Board listened to their concerns and dropped the proposal.
In the event that you have not yet seen it, Metro rolled out an “under construction” map of Metro Rail lines. The new map also shows proposed extensions that have guaranteed Measure R funds and have attained approval from the Metro Board. As a result, some other Measure R transit projects are notably absent, such as the Van Nuys Blvd. and Sepulveda Pass projects, as well as the Santa Ana Right-of-Way project. The map is reminiscent of highway maps of old, where proposed freeways were marked long before they were built.
Los Angeles’ seventh CicLAvia was held Sunday from Downtown LA to Miracle Mile. A 6.3-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard (between Grand [at the "One Wilshire Hub"] and Fairfax Avenue) was closed off to vehicles from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for people to ride their bikes, roller blade, walk, run, skate board, and other related activities. Along the route were performers, sites for participants to see, and even free water handed out by a church. At the end of the trail were Oscar statues. Despite a somewhat gloomy day, more than 100,000 participated in the event. Each event costs $350,000 to host, and is sponsored by CicLAvia, a non-profit organization, and the city. The next CicLAvia is scheduled for Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
What is happening with Alameda Corridor East? Find out in the spring issue of The ACE Report. This grade-separation program for the San Gabriel Valley has successfully secured $1.5 billion of the $1.7 billion it needs to complete various projects. Dignitaries held a groundbreaking for a new Nogales Street overpass in the City of Industry. Meanwhile, work has begun on a new grade separation at Baldwin Avenue in El Monte, requiring a 24-month closure of the existing crossing. Various utility relocations in San Gabriel are also underway.
Even though the state high-speed rail project is years away from reaching the Santa Clarita Valley, real estate agents are already expressing concern as to how the proposed routes would affect house sales in the area. Realtors are obligated to disclose project plans to prospective buyers, which in turn could reduce the value of the home or even render it un-sellable. Community members continue to advocate for a tunnel through the area, even though the CAHSRA Authority ruled it out per ongoing environmental study. Fortunately, the Authority has met with local leaders to discuss the project, with hope that a resolution is reached.
The Los Angeles City Council approved the environmental documents for the Southern California International Gateway project, amidst outcry from both neighbors and the City of Long Beach. Despite pleas to at least postpone approval, the City Council moved forward in the belief that the project will be the most environmentally friendly of its kind, on top of the economic benefits it would bring. Opponents contend that the project is nothing like such and vowed to fight it in the courts. Curiously, Port of Los Angeles Director Geraldine Katz asserted that the city is working to have on-dock rail facilities, but even then there would be a need for an off-port area to handle all the cargo. Perhaps Katz should look into the GRID Project, which features a ship-to-rail design that would process all cargo in one area, without the need of a second facility.
City officials also identified $42.6 million in transportation money collected over 17 years that remained unspent. While it will undoubtedly help the city by giving a little breathing room for its next budget, officials are flummoxed as to how it happened in the first place. Not knowing about the lost cash, the city made transfers from the city general fund to make up the difference. These funds in turn were used to fill the gap and pay for employee health benefits and pensions. Meanwhile, Metro and Kiewit are discussing and employing solutions on some of the issues that have affected the Sepulveda Pass HOV Lane project, even as the two sort out the blame for project delays.
Join Move LA’s business-labor-environmental coalition in honoring LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for his efforts at addressing the city’s transportation challenges through various initiatives. Move LA will host an event on Wednesday, June 12, 5 p.m. at Los Angeles Union Station. To learn how you can attend, view this flyer or visit the Move LA website.
With Metro releasing its preliminary findings on the I-110 HOT lanes, the Los Angeles Times gets in on the action. Notably, tolls have reached as high as $15.40 per trip (though the article does not make it clear whether this is for the entire length of the HOT lanes). As expected, travel times on the free lanes increased, while those on the HOT lanes decreased. Metro attributes this to the removal of illegal solo drivers from the formerly free carpool lanes. Seeing that vehicle numbers on the HOT lanes are slowly recovering, however, Metro and Caltrans hope that traffic volumes will even out as the one-year pilot project continues. Readers responded with grumblings on how their travels have been hampered on account of the HOT lanes.
Elsewhere, Silver Lake State Assemblymember Mike Gatto expanded the scope of a bill to allow solo drivers to use carpool lanes during off-peak times. Instead of applying the proposed law only on the 134 Freeway as originally proposed, the amended bill now includes other freeways with their own carpool lanes. Down south, the operator of the Orange County toll roads received a report criticizing the less-than-effective methods to stem the financial problems of the agency.