By Noel T. Braymer
There are now 5 rail transit projects in different states of construction in Los Angeles County. Two projects: the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa and the Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica are both now almost finished. Both will have passenger service by early 2016.
Also well into construction is the 8.5 mile Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line linking with the Green Line at the south along LAX to Expo Line at Crenshaw at the north. This will include direct service by an airport People Mover to the terminals at LAX. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is planned to open by 2019 with the LAX People Mover to the terminals running by 2022.
The next project after the Crenshaw/LAX Line is the Regional Connector. This is a new 1.9 mile subway tunnel under downtown Los Angeles. This will allow the Blue Line from Long Beach to be extended to Los Angeles Union Station and out to Pasadena, Azusa and in the future maybe as far as Ontario Airport. The Regional Connector will also reroute the Expo Line out to East Los Angeles on the current Gold Line. A new subway station in Little Tokyo will replace the current surface station and should allow easier transfers at the same platform between the two lines in the Region Connector. The new tunnel and rerouted services should be operational by 2020.
A related project, but not directly a part of LA Metrorail is SCRIP, or Southern California Regional Interconnection Project. Also know as the run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station. Construction should begin around 2017 and be fully operational by 2020. This is part of a larger program to increase the number of regional Metrolink and Amtrak Surfliner trains to 278 trains by 2025. This is up from roughly 156 train a day now run at Union Station. Run through tracks will eliminate the need for trains to either back in or back out of Union Station. It will also increase the train capacity of Union Station. Related plans are in place to allow more trains by double tracking more of the tracks in Los Angeles County. This will include full double tracking in the San Fernando Valley. SCRIP is a major part of the rebuilding going on at the same time of Union Station. The station will get a new concourse, replacing the 1939 tunnel to allow more passengers to use the station and for more direct connections between trains with rail transit and local bus services. This will also include more amenities at the station for all passengers and visitors.
The latest major rail project for LA Metrorail is the extension of the Purple Line west along Wilshire Blvd. An all subway service will make this the most expensive project for LA Metro. But this corridor also has the heaviest travel demand and greatest development unserved by rail transit in Los Angeles County. The first 3.9 miles segment from Western Ave. to La Cienaga Blvd. in Beverly Hills is expected by 2024. The full 9 miles from Western Ave to Westwood by the I-405 is scheduled no later than 2036. The exact day depends on future funding.
So what is planned after that? Voter approved Measure R calls for service to extend today’s Gold Line further east from East Los Angeles. Service to either Whittier or El Monte are both being studied. Measure R also calls for rail service on the old Pacific Electric West Santa Ana Line which is now publicly owned from Paramount next to the 605 freeway in southeast Los Angeles County to Santa Ana in Orange County. An extension of the Green Line in the South Bay is planned as far as Torrance. There is also suppose to be Light Rail in the San Fernando Valley. Also in Measure R is some money for rail transit from the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys to Westwood and LAX. While Measure R has funds for all of these projects, it doesn’t have enough to fully fund these projects.
Los Angeles Metro is preparing a new ballot measure to present to the voters of Los Angeles County for the November 2016 election. A similar ballot measure was on the November 2012 ballot. It would have extended the current sale tax for transportation in Los Angeles County, which would allow the County to borrow money now to speed up construction of projects and avoid higher costs of construction in the future. This measure failed to pass, missing the required 2/3’s majority needed by less than one percent. Great care is being taken in what projects will be proposed for the 2016 measure that it will have greater support to insure passage.
There is no lack of desirable projects for rail service in Los Angeles County. LA Metro is proposing to convert the Orange Line Busway into a Light Rail service. The Orange Line is already reaching capacity as a Rapid Bus service as ridership continues to grow. One major project many people would like to see is rail service along the I-405 to connect the San Fernando Valley with the Westside of Los Angeles and LAX. Current planning for this is to use a Public,Private, Partnership, or PPP. This would include building a Toll Road in a tunnel under the 405 and a smaller tunnel for rail transit from LAX to the Van Nuys Train Station. The funding for this project is expected to come from tolls on the highway tunnel and higher fares for the rail service. No word yet how high the tolls and fares would be to pay for this project.
There are several improvements that could be done on the Green Line. It should have a connection to the West Santa Ana Line project for service from Orange County to LAX and up the Crenshaw/LAX Line as far as Exposition Blvd. There are plans, but no funding to to extend the West Santa Ana Line at Paramount up the old UP Harbor Line to Los Angeles Union Station. Such service could be done for much less by extending existing Metrolink service on the UP Harbor Line as far as Long Beach with connections to both the Green and West Santa Ana Light Rail Lines.
What will also make sense for the Green Line is to extend it east from its Norwalk terminal by the 605 freeway 2 miles to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station. This will be needed if this Metrolink Station is chosen as one of the California High Speed Rail Stations. As it stands now the Metrolink Station only has bus service by one line of Norwalk Transit. It will need more transit service if it becomes a High Speed Rail Station. Green Line service to Metrolink and High Speed Rail would give direct connections to LAX. as well as the South Bay and connections on the Blue Line to Long Beach as well as the area south of downtown Los Angeles and parts of West Los Angeles on the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Expo Line.
One long term proposals is to extend the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the planned extension of the Purple Line west of Western Ave. There are other calls to extend the Red Line in North Hollywood to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and rail connections from Bob Hope Airport to the current Gold Line at Pasadena. There are also calls to build a connection between the Red and Purple Lines through West Hollywood. It will be some time before all of these projects can if ever be funded and built. The priority should be to serve as much of the region as possible with connecting services between LA Metrorail, Metrolink, California High Speed Rail, Amtrak as well as intercity and urban transit bus services.