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Los Angeles Transit Plans Updated, Refined

Thursday, August 1, 2019

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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has announced that the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project is exploring options for four potential routes, in addition to a new preliminary cost estimate.

The new line plans to connect the San Fernando Valley to the Los Angeles Westside and eventually extend to the Los Angeles International Airport. The updated cost estimate for the project ranges between $9.4 billion and $13.8 billion.

Project History

Announced in March 2016, Metro released a 40-year, $120 billion plan for the transformation of the city’s transportation system.

With Los Angeles County expected to grow by 2.4 million people by 2057, Metro planned on updating its Long-Range Transportation Plan “to enhance mobility and quality of life for LA County to position the region for future growth and meet transportation needs,” it said.

Of the projects selected to be tackled within the first 15 years was the Sepulveda Pass Busway/ExpressLanes from the Valley to the Westside project. By December, Metro announced that it would be paying an additional $300 million to contractor Kiewit for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project, nearly doubling the cost from when it was first announced.

As time passed, traffic on the I-405 Freeway was still heavily congested regardless of the highway-widening project. In February of this year, Metro released four refined concept options for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project, which aimed to fix the highway traffic by drawing an estimated 100,000 passengers daily.

According to the Engineering News-Record, three of the four designs were reported to be for heavy rail, while the fourth option was a monorail design. At the time, the project was slated to receive $10 billion in funding from the transportation agency’s Measures R and M. The project also underwent a feasibility study geared toward finding high-capacity rail transit alternatives between the Valley and the Westside and was expected to be complete by the fall.

Possible Options

Although the project will be in flux until December, one of the project’s options includes an aerial rail across the Santa Monica Mountains. However, residents from the area and the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association opposed this option.

Other options include a mixture of aerial and underground sections—these options are more expensive, ranging between $11 billion and $13.8 billion.

More specifically, the three heavy rail options would be mostly composed of tunnels through 13.5 miles of the Santa Monica Mountains; two of these would run underground between Van Nuys and the Westside, running under the 101 Freeway, though these choices would be faced with the challenge of tunneling under the East San Fernando Valley, along with potentially encountering water mainlines and storm drains.

The fourth monorail option would sometimes run along the 405 Freeway. Though the monorail would be cheaper—estimated to cost between $9.4 billion and $11.6 billion due to using 35% less tunnel infrastructure—it would be slower with less space for riders.

Sepulveda Transit Corridor is reportedly funded with $5.7 billion from the Measure M plan to connect the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, scheduled to open in 2035. Another $3.8 billion will be used to extend that service from the Westside to LAX with a 2057 opening date.

What’s Happening Now

Regardless that the cost estimates haven’t been fully determined yet, all options are proving to be well over the Measure M sales tax funds. In addition to Metro’s plans to reach out to private firms for the design work (ultimately creating a public-private partnership), the authority will likely have to request federal government assistance as well.

Until then, in an effort to continue examining best options for the project, Metro held community meetings throughout July to update residents and gain feedback. The last meeting will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center. Metro also has an online community survey for the project in English and Spanish.

Following these meetings, Metro expects to build a report which they will present to board members some time in November or December of this year. Any agreements with private contractors are also slated to be finalized at that time, with the project continuing into the environmental study phase.

Metro’s objective involves having the project completed just in time for the 2028 Olympics, however, the authority’s staff doesn’t expect the project to be complete until some time in 2033. Additional work to extend the rail to LAX isn’t expected to happen until 2057.


Tagged categories: Construction; Funding; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Transportation; Upcoming projects

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