February 25, 2021

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Updates from the January 2021 Metro Board Meeting – Streetsblog Los Angeles

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In addition to yesterday’s big news that Metro is restoring bus service, there were plenty of other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors. Below are six takeaways from from the January 28 Metro Board of Directors meeting.

New Boardmembers: Holly Mitchell and Tim Sandoval

Yesterday’s meeting was the first for two new boardmembers: L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval. Mitchell replaced termed-out County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was elected to the L.A. City Council. Mitchell, formerly a state legislator, is a longtime community leader who prioritizes ending homelessness, reforming the criminal justice system, expanding healthcare, and furthering environmental justice. In her brief introductory remarks, Mitchell recalled riding RTD (Metro’s predecessor) buses with her grandmother.

Tim Sandoval replaced the longtime San Gabriel Valley sector representative, Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana, who retired. Sandoval chairs the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. Hear a recent interview with the mayor at SBLA’s Connect SGV podcast.

There will be another new boardmember when a new Gateway Cities representative is confirmed. That person will replace Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who chose not to seek re-appointment.

No News Is Bad News For Crenshaw/LAX Line Construction

Test train on Crenshaw/LAX Line - photo via Metro presentation
Test train on Crenshaw/LAX Line – photo via Metro presentation

Metro Chief Program Management Officer Richard Clarke delivered an update on the construction of the long-delayed Crenshaw/LAX Line.

Initially, the new light rail was projected to open in Fall 2019. This was first delayed to a mid-2020 opening, then to an opening in late 2020, then to a late 2021 opening.

While work on the line is progressing, Metro still has no new official estimate for when it will open. Yesterday, Clarke reported that the firm building the line, Walsh Shea, is now projecting substantial completion in mid-May 2021, but Clarke expressed skepticism that Walsh Shea would be able to make that date. Following substantial completion, the contractor will turn the line over to Metro for roughly six months of testing and training before it opens to the public.

Clarke stated that Metro is doing an independent assessment of project completion, and he expects to bring a new estimated completion date to the board next month.

The way things are going, it appears unlikely that Crenshaw/LAX will open this calendar year.

Accelerated Regional Connector Construction Approved

Metro approved a $13 million budget increase to accelerate completion of the Regional Connector construction by 10 weeks. The $1.55 billion 1.9-mile downtown L.A. Regional Connector light rail subway will tie together the Metro A (Blue), E (Expo), and L (Gold) Lines. Metro staff expect that paying the $13M incentive now will save an estimated $19M later.

5 Freeway North Widening Cost Overruns Deal Struck

The board approved an L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger motion that sets terms for Metro to loan Caltrans money to complete I-5 North freeway widening construction through Burbank. This $1.3+ billion mega-project is currently five years behind schedule. In 2020, when Caltrans asked Metro to pay more for the project, CEO Phil Washington denied the request, stating, “Metro does not have financial responsibility for cost overruns.”

This year, as the contractor is looking at walking away (per Caltrans District 7 Director Tony Tavares’ statement yesterday), Metro proposed loaning $73.2 million to Caltrans for the I-5 North project. Metro staff proposed that Caltrans could pay Metro back using in-kind services. Yesterday, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn criticized the Caltrans loan and vague in-kind payback as “fuzzy” and “wishy-washy;” in committee last week, Hahn called it “sketchy” and “a moving target.”

The Barger motion brings the final approval back to the board next month.

New Metro Staff for Equity

In January 2020, Metro brought on KeAndra Cylear Dodds as its Executive Officer for Equity and Race, charged with ensuring that work throughout Metro advances the agency’s adopted Equity Platform. As part of the mid-year budget adjustment approval, Cylear Dodds will be joined by three additional full-time employees to “improve efforts to expand access for historically and currently marginalized, underserved, and vulnerable communities, to contribute to a more inclusive and equitable L.A. County.”

First Round of MAP Program Active Transportation Projects Approved

The Metro board approved $63.1 million worth of project grants under its new Metro Active Transport, Transit and First/Last Mile program (MAT Program) which disburses Measure M active transportation monies to local jurisdictions. See full project listings at Metro staff report.