Gold Line may open next year

Rather than waiting until the entire 11.5 mile Gold Line extension is complete to Azusa and ready for operation in 2016, a Metro official says the line could open to Arcadia more than a years earlier than expected when bridges and a station are expected to be ready as early as next year.
Arcadia resident Douglas R. Failing, P.E., Executive Director, Highway Program for Los Angeles County Metro, told attendees Thursday (Jan. 3) at the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Forum, sponsored by Expedia, also said that construction on the entire 11.5-mile route to Azusa will likely be completed before the announced late 2015 date. He sad it’s possible the first segments of the route — Arcadia is the first stop east of the current last station in east Pasasdena — could be considered to begin operating once they are complete as early as 2014 or 2015.
(Update Jan. 31: Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian said during a briefing with the media and City officials on Jan. 31 that no segment of the extension will be open until the entire route is complete in late 2015. In fact, plans now call for laying the track from Azusa to Arcadia, meaning Arcadia would be the last of the cities on the extended route to have rails laid, though that strategy is subject to change. Other Metro officials have said over the last year that service would not begin on the new extended route until early 2016 to allow for several months of resting after work is complete.)

Douglas R. Failing

Failing, who oversees the work related to the $8 billion Measure R highway tax program, was chosen by the Los Angeles Times West Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in Southern California, and as one of the most influential people in Los Angeles by Los Angeles Magazine that same year.

Failing also said that Metro is in the environmental review stage of developing a “High Desert Corridor” connecting the Highway 14 and I-15 freeway that, at a minimum, would relieve the 210 freeway of many freight trucks that must drive 90 miles and three-to-four hours out of their way to go north on the I-15. Even better, he said the potential new “High Desert Corridor” could serve as access to two high-speed rail lines being planned for construction between L.A. and Las Vegas (privately-funded), and L.A. and northern California.

Four other notable updates provide by Failing:

  • The launch of the toll/carpool lanes on the I-10 that require every driver — solo or with passengers — to have a transponder has been pushed back until February or March. Even drivers with one or more passengers will be required to acquire a transponder device for a deposit of $40 that can be read be electronic readers on the freeway. Those who forget and get photographed by the freeway reading devices will be sent a notice of a fine, although first-time offenders will be given a 30-day grace period to acquire the transponder device (available at AAA, Costco, and elsewhere), which can be moved from one car to another and set by the owner to notify the electronic readers how many passengers are with the driver that day (monitored by CHP patrolmen). Caution: those who acquire a transponder and then do not use it at least three times per month (it will work on all tollways in California) will be charged a maintenance fee. Failing noted that the same system instituted last year on the 110 freeway south of downtown L.A. is working very smoothly, with traffic in the carpool lanes maintained at speed limit levels — would-be toll-lane users are disallowed if the speed in the lane is dropping below a certain level.
  • Extending the I-10 carpool/toll lanes east from the I-605 to highway 57 is planned for completion in 2017.
  • Construction by CalTrans on a safer interchange that will take drivers going southbound I-605 up, over, and back down to the eastbound I-10 is on track to begin early this year and be complete by late 2014.
  • Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will go out early this year for work on the regional connector light rail line in Downtown L.A. that will allow passengers of any train line to connect with other lines without needing to walk or take a shuttle bus, which Failing and others say will result in a major improvement and convenience for longer-distance traveling in the region.

In other comments at the forum chaired by Peter Ulrich and co-chair Mary Dougherty, Arcadia Mayor Bob Harbicht noted that work will begin later this year on the local taxpayer-funded $13 million bridge over Santa Anita Avenue near Fasching’s car wash. Unlike other cities that have several rail crossings at street level, three of the four street crossings in Arcadia will be done via bridge so that traffic will not be impacted on any road except on First Avenue at Santa Clara, the site of the Gold Line station on the northwest corner. The last bridge work to be done this year will be this fall to add a second bridge over Second Avenue.
Following completion of the bridge over the 210 freeway last month, work begins next week on the double-track bridge over Colorado Boulevard near Newcastle Park.

Mayor Harbicht also noted that the City is now utilizing “design-build” contracts with one company to save on costs and streamline construction processes (as opposed to ordering design from one company; waiting for the completion of design, and then putting that design out for bid to a construction company).

In addition to “design-build,” Harbicht reiterated Failing’s comments that construction and financing costs are lower than ever now. The Mayor said he may once again propose to the Council this year that the City proceed with plans to build a new City Hall, which he said is ready to go at an estimated cost of $12 million, which could probably get done in the current construction climate for $10 mil. His proposal last year was not supported by a majority of the Council for reasons relating to concerns over the general economic environment and the loss of Redevelopment funds from the state, that led to concerns that the City may have to cut is budget.

Next month’s Government Affairs Forum is set for 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Chamber conference room, 388 W. Huntington Drive.

Comments

  1. Lloyd Slaght says

    Wow, there is a lot to digest from your report on the Chamber’s Government Affairs Forum and the comments by Douglas R. Failing. Many exciting things are happening in the next couple of years regarding transportation around the area. Thank you so much for that extensive report, Scott

  2. tim mellin says

    Ditto on Mr. Slaght’s comments. A possible improvement to this excellent article might be illustrative “at a glance” maps with the bullet points. Perhaps Scott could re-edit the article and add the maps.

  3. says

    1. Finally signs of intelligence from those running the light rail program. It is so obvious that the best way to serve the users of the line is to start it in the West and build it to the East and open it in segments: anything to help traffic on the #210.
    2. The “High Desert Corridor”. BRILLIANT. This should be fast tracked as it is so desperately needed to help solve the #210 back-up going both ways.
    3. Let’s back Mayor Harrbicht’s idea now of a new needed City Hall. Design/Build is the only way to go in commercial construction. As the construction industry is slowly starting to improve, we should get going on this as soon as possible.
    Thanks for a very well done informative article.

  4. Lisa Levy Buch says

    There are many elements that go into designing and building a nearly $1 billion project, as well as starting operations. As much as it might seem logical to build station to station, in the end that approach would add significant cost to the completing the project and years of delay. You need to take into consideration the significant testing and safety certification requirements built into opening a light rail line for service; not to mention the hiring of construction workers and equipment, purchasing of materials, the sequencing of similar construction activities to optimize efficiencies across an 11.5-mile project corridor, etc. The Construction Authority is employing a design-build approach for the Foothill Extension light rail project, which improves delivery of the project (and the overall cost) by having the designer and contractor working hand in hand to identify and resolve issues early. In our experience, that keeps the project moving as quickly as possible, and so far has shown successful on completion of the design and starting construction on this current segment. At this time, the team is on schedule to complete substantial design next month, as well as construction of the required maintenance facility for Metro a year ahead of project completion. This is a requirement of the project, so Metro can start accepting vehicles and housing them at the facility. Once the Construction Authority completes construction and has received California Public Utilities Commission safety certifications, the agency will turn the entire 11.5-mile extension over to Metro to test. At that time, Metro will decide how and when to start operating service on the line. The Construction Authority encourages everyone to sign up to receive updates on the construction progress and notices of impactful activities (like street closures) – at http://www.foothillextension.org. Don’t get surprised by construction.