Trucks Headed for New LanesL.A. County Metro’s New Long-Range Plan Sets Stage for Allocation of Measure R Funds to Build Truck Lanes from State Route 14 to Lyons Avenue
By Tim Whyte
When significant funding gets allocated, a project starts to seem less like a concept and more like a reality.
That’s what’s up next for the Interstate 5 Gateway Improvement Project, after the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority — more commonly known as Metro — approved a long-range transportation plan for the entire region.
Within that plan, approved Oct. 22, was a commitment to allocate $56 million of Measure R transportation funding to finance the construction of new truck lanes on I-5 between State Route 14 and Lyons Avenue/Pico Canyon Road.
“This is a significant step in the process of securing the funding for this important freeway improvement project,” said Victor Lindenheim, executive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition. “With these Measure R funds headed for the Gateway Improvement Project in 2012 through 2015, it reinforces the efforts of the Coalition to forge public-private partnerships to make much-needed improvements to this vital transportation corridor.”
The 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) adopted by Metro is a 30-year blueprint for Los Angeles County’s transportation future. It forecasts transportation improvements from now through 2040, a period of time during which the county is expected to experience major growth, with a countywide population increase of as many as 3 million people.
“(The LRTP) examines the impacts this growth will have on the mobility of the county, which includes increasing demand on streets, highways, buses and trains, and it recommends what can be done to address those impacts within anticipated revenues,” said a Metro statement released after the board’s approval of the LRTP.
Metro crafted the LRTP in anticipation of the collection and distribution of approximately $298 billion in transportation funds countywide over the next 30 years. The funds will come from a variety of sources, including Measure R (a voter-approved half-cent sales tax in L.A. County), and federal stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), as well as other local, state and federal transportation funding sources.
The LRTP sketches out how those funds will be used for transit services, highway maintenance, and to develop transit and highway improvements throughout the county.
Bus and rail operations and capital improvement projects are expected to receive approximately 55 percent of the funds countywide. Highway maintenance and improvement projects are expected to receive approximately 32 percent, with the remainder of the revenue covering other uses such as debt service.
The Metro plan does not spell out all the precise details of how every penny will be allocated over the next 30 years because it is intended to be a living document that can change over time.
“The LRTP is a framework to guide Board decisions and funding allocations,” said the Metro staff’s report to the board. “The Board can make adjustments, for example, to schedules and funding allocations, as needed to reflect the most current conditions with respect to project costs and readiness, annual revenue receipts, availability of state and federal funds, etc.
“The LRTP is intended to be periodically updated to reflect changes in revenues, costs and other factors that may be different from what we are forecasting at this time,” the report said.
Why It’s Important to the I-5
The initial funding allocations approved by the Metro board as part of the LRTP process included the $56 million in funds for the I-5 truck lanes, which are now in the design phase with construction expected to begin within the next couple of years.
The Metro-approved funding will be derived over the next several years from Measure R, which was approved by the county’s voters in November 2008 to generate a projected $40 billion for traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county over the next three decades.
According to estimates by the nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, Measure R will create more than 210,000 construction jobs and inject an estimated $32 billion into the county’s economy.
In approving the funds to go toward construction of the I-5 truck lanes, Metro recognized the importance of these lanes to improving traffic flow and goods movement in northern Los Angeles County.
By removing truck traffic from the regular vehicle lanes, the project will improve the overall flow of traffic, reducing commute times, boosting the movement of goods through one of the nation’s busiest commercial corridors and reducing air pollution.
“We are very pleased that Metro agreed the I-5 project is an important step in improving transportation through the Golden State Gateway corridor,” said Lindenheim. “This approval is a tremendous shot in the arm for the project.”
What’s Next for the LRTP
The Metro board’s approval of the LRTP establishes the framework for future decisions on transportation issues, but it’s not yet the final word for many future projects.
“The approval of the 2009 LRTP does not constitute final Board action on individual projects,” said Metro’s statement on the LRTP. “Projects will return to the Board for further action at key milestones in the planning, environmental and project development process.”
The LRTP will now be submitted to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) for inclusion in SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan, which demonstrates how Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties will meet federal will meet federal air quality mandates and provides future federal funding needs estimates for transportation.