21 Aug 2014
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Ideas for Sepulveda Pass Include Tunnels Requiring Toll Roads

Several proposals to develop the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor emerged at last week's Metro board meeting. What idea interests you? Tell us in the comments.

Ideas for Sepulveda Pass Include Tunnels Requiring Toll Roads

Reconstructing the Mulholland Bridge to widen the 405 Freeway is only the beginning of the work designed to handle traffic traveling through the Sepulveda Pass.

Metro is looking roughly 30 years ahead to anticipate the day when demand exceeds capacity on the freeway and another transit corridor — the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor — will be needed to travel to and from the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.

The ideas floated for the transit corridor include a bus lane, light rail and even a mega tunnel through the Santa Monica Mountains with the possibility of toll lanes. The plan that moves forward may depend on the approach selected by a Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor's public-private partnership.

Last week, the Metro Board of Directors agreed to study the development of the transit corridor project as a public-private partnership.

"It's kind of exciting — the board is urging us to move forward with this approach to move forward with this project," Kathleen Sanchez, public-private partnership manager, said on Wednesday. "It's very new in the U.S. and it's an alternative way to deliver a project."

In 2008, voters approved for the Metro R ballot initiative, which commits $2.4 billion to a long-range transportation plan for the Sepulveda Pass.

Sanchez said early planning efforts this year resulted in six ideas in approaching the project, all ranging in scope, cost and environmental impact. Some include the idea of toll roads.

"The possibility to move traffic through the pass [via tunnels] would be really expensive," she said. Because of a lack of both federal funding and local tax revenues, toll income could be a viable option, she suggested.

The six ideas floated to handle increasing traffic in and out of the valley are:

  • A shoulder-running bus route along the I-405, the least expensive of the options,
  • At-grade managed lanes with a bus route along the I-405,
  • Aerial/viaduct managed lanes with a bus route along the I-405,
  • A tolled highway tunnel with a bus route,
  • A rail tunnel, and 
  • A combined highway and rail tunnel, the most expensive option.

To view the cost breakdowns and full descriptions of the six concepts, see pages 17 and 18 and pages 38 and 39 of the PDF document posted with the map above.

The board will meet next to month to hire a consultant who would hold "industry forums" and present preliminary project concepts. In several months, Sanchez said Metro could issue a request for interest and information from possible developers.

Sanchez said officials will determine what needs to be provided to make the project financially feasible for a private developer, such as what kind of rail would be sufficient.

"All those things need to be looked at before we even define a project," she said. "So we’d partner with a private firm to identify what the project would be in the first place. And then start working on the environmental clearance to determine what a project could be, and [then] the board accepts."

Sanchez said the developer could be allowed to recoup its investment by operating a rail or bus system, or both, with fares higher than Metro's.

"It's like the Heathrow Airport connector, which is a privately owned rail system," she said. "A premium rate gets you to the right airport."

The transit system could potentially connect to Metro's Orange Line, Green Line, Rapid Line 761, Metrolink Ventura Line, Metrolink Antelope Valley Line, the Expo Line, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, the Westside Subway Extension, the Airport Metro Connector and the Metro Crenshaw/LAX line.

As demand grows to accommodate new Sepulveda Pass transit projects, would you prefer to travel through by bus, light rail, heavy rail, vehicle or have a combination of options? And would you pay a toll if it helped fund a more complex project? Tell us in the comments section.

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