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The following Opinion appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News on December 6, 2013.
Opinion: Taking the train to LAX — it’s a connection we can’t afford to miss
By L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin
Earlier this fall, a sleek new international terminal debuted at Los Angeles International Airport to widespread acclaim. The new building is a key first step in beautifying and modernizing LAX and making it one of the world’s finest airports again.
Meanwhile, a new transit system is rising in Los Angeles County. Two new rail projects are half-complete and three should soon be underway. Our transit map will soon look like our freeway map: a vibrant tangle of lines connecting our neighborhoods, job centers and major destinations.
And that means a train must go to LAX, the sixth-busiest airport on the planet and the gateway to our region for residents, visitors and those who both do business and create jobs here.
It is embarrassing and inexplicable that the Green Line opened in 1995 within sight of the airport’s runways but a long 2.5-mile bus ride to the terminals from the nearest train station.
That is one reason that the vast majority of the airport’s 63.7 million passengers in 2012 arrived and departed the airport by car. Improved transit to the airport promises an alternative to traffic. Transit has also proven to be a smart way for riders to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Metro is currently studying six options for connecting the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line to the airport terminals via either a light rail line, an automated people mover or a combination of those. As members of the Metro Board of Directors, we agree it is essential to study all options, and analyze the costs and benefits.
A particularly strong and promising alternative is called LAX Connect. It is part of the modernization plan adopted by LAX and the City Council. Under the plan, a rail spur from the Crenshaw/LAX and Green lines would deliver passengers to a new transportation hub built on airport land with airport money near Parking Lot C.
Think of the hub as a state-of-the-art front porch to greet those who arrive at LAX by train or bus. The hub would be a place where people could conveniently check in for flights, grab a coffee or a meal and then easily connect directly to their terminals via a free, automated people mover.
Getting this done won’t be easy. Four major agencies — including two from the federal government — must get on the same page for anything to happen. Additional funding is needed to supplement the existing seed money from Measure R.
The good news is that the wheels are in motion and that we believe the project is both viable and attainable in the near term.
On the local front, Metro and LAX have been working together. In October, we met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C. He and other key transportation officials understand and agree that connecting LAX to our rail system must happen.
They are watching us. They are eager to help. And that’s the reason we can’t squander the opportunity to act now.
One of the myths that we both despise about Los Angeles is that we are beholden to traffic and that we can’t build big things. Or that we can’t do them right, symbolized by the Green Line veering south of the airport.
This project is a chance to shatter that myth, move Los Angeles into the future, and to build a transit system that connects our region to the rest of the world.
Eric Garcetti is mayor of Los Angeles. Mike Bonin is an L.A. city councilman whose 11th district includes LAX.
Posted by GoldLine
Snow was falling, carolers were caroling, and everyone was getting into the holiday spirit at last night’s Downtown Arcadia Christmas Market. Missed it? The Market will take place again the next two Saturdays from 5-9 PM on First Ave, just north of Huntington Dr.
Posted by GoldLine
The following story originally appeared on the San Gabriel Valley Tribune website on December 5, 2013.
Gold Line basket bridge over 210 Freeway gets record fifth award
By Steve Scauzillo
Motorists driving the 210 Freeway often don’t get it.
The 584-foot Gold Line Bridge near Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia includes two bulbous structures at each end that are designed to represent woven baskets used by native American people who once thrived in the San Gabriel Valley.
While many who drive underneath the massive concrete train-bridge don’t notice the representative art, or appreciate the engineering achievement, a lot of others have. Namely, those in the design and construction industry.
The Gold Line Bridge won “Best Project in Southern California” for highways and bridges Thursday from Engineering News-Record, a national trade journal on construction and design.
The award was presented by ENR at a conference in Long Beach to Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Sharing in the award was AECOM, the lead architectural firm who implemented the concept from artist Andrew Leicester, and Skanska U.S.A., construction contractor.
The Authority is constructing the 11.5-mile extension of the L.A. to Pasadena Gold Line light-rail train from East Pasadena to Citrus Avenue in Azusa near Citrus College. The bridge, which cost about $18 million and spans the eastbound freeway lanes, was the first segment of the $735-million extension, known as Phase 2A.
The bridge was completed exactly one year ago. “It was on time and under budget,” Balian said.
While the ENR award may be the most prestigious, Balian said, the bridge has picked up a total of five awards. The other accolades were: 2013 Engineering Achievement Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies; Outstanding Public Civil Engineering Transportation Project over $10 million from The American Society of Civil Engineers; the 2013 Project Achievement Award from the Construction Management Association of America and the Distinguished Project Award from the Western Council of Construction Consumers.
“We’ve been recognized by both the design and engineering side but also by the construction side,” he said. “It may be the only Measure R project to receive awards like this.”
Measure R is a 2008 ballot measure approved by Los Angeles County voters to build transit projects by adding a half-cent to the sales tax for 30 years.
Balian said the bridge’s concept was incorporated from the beginning into the design, planning and construction. He said it was not an after thought but an integral part of the project.
The bridge’s two, 25-foot concrete baskets each have nine layers, including curved, cast molds that integrated glass and other gem-like rocks into the concrete mixture to give the baskets a sparkle effect.
The span includes a serpentine design, an homage to the western Diamondback snake and indicative of the curvilinear transit systems of Southern California.
One of the engineering challenges was to ferret out the exact location of an earthquake fault, known as the Raymond Fault. Once detected, the 11-feet diameter, 110-feet deep columns were strategically placed and then reinforced with 60-ton steel cages and 450 cubic yards of concrete.
Though the bridge will only carry trains, right now it is being used to transport trucks, supplies and equipment over the 210 Freeway to various work sites along the route, Balian said. “It was important to build this first. We turned the bridge over to the next contractor, Kiewit. They are using the bridge to haul dirt and material onto the freeway site.”
Phase 2A will include stations in Irwindale, Duarte, Arcadia, Monrovia and two in Azusa. Balian says construction is ongoing at all locations. He expects the project to be complete by September 2015.
The next extension, Phase 2B, is scheduled to run from Azusa to Montclair. The 12.3 mile-addition will cost $950 million and so far, only $36 million has been raised.
Posted by GoldLine
The following Letter originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, December 4, 2013.
Letters: Transit for all of L.A. County
By Congressman Adam Schiff
Re “More taxes for more transit?,” Editorial, Nov. 24
When voters approved Measure R in 2008, it allowed our region to move forward on transportation improvements that benefited all of Los Angeles County.
The half-cent sales tax increase changed L.A.’s landscape drastically, with a new dedicated busway, new light-rail connections and other major projects in the pipeline, including the Expo Line’s extension to Santa Monica, the first half of the Gold Line extension to Azusa and the Crenshaw light-rail line to LAX.
As Metro weighs a new tax measure, it must appeal to voters throughout the county. Asking them to approve any new tax or an extension of the existing tax, if it primarily benefits only one area or city, would be inequitable and risk the high level of support necessary for passage.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already reached out to all of the communities in the county to make a regionally balanced list of projects for a new tax measure. This approach will be critical to the success of any future measure.
Rep. Adam Schiff
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Crews complete final preparations before paving Mayflower Ave in Monrovia this week. The street is re-opening ahead of schedule, and in time for Thanksgiving.
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The Construction Authority’s CEO, Chief Project Officer and Chief Contracting Officer address a crowd of more than 80 representatives from local consulting firms that attended this week’s Azusa to Montclair pre-proposal conference. The Construction Authority intends to issue a Request for Proposals in January for consultants to assist the Authority in advancing the design for the 12.3-mile project to a point that it will be ready for a design-build procurement.
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This week, Monrovia station artist Cha-Rie Tang visited the historic Santa Fe depot to collect molds of old tiles from inside the building. These tile samples, along with many other samples collected by Cha-Rie from around the community, will be featured in the design of the future Gold Line station in Monrovia. Watch this video to learn more about the inspiration behind Cha-Rie’s station art concept.
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The following Opinion originally appeared in the Thursday, November 13, 2013 print edition of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News.
Opinion: Better public transit is as good as Gold
By Mike Gatto
Los Angeles County has the most congested freeways in the nation. Despite the years of congestion, we lack a mass-transit system to effectively serve our communities, especially in the San Gabriel Valley. Workers lament lost productivity, and families long for more time together at home. We need a transportation system that will reduce the time we spend sitting in gridlock.
Ten years ago the Metro Gold Line from Los Angeles to Pasadena opened for service. A controversial project at the time, the Gold Line has proven to be an efficient and worthwhile public investment.
Even better, it was completed on-time and under-budget, and now serves more than 40,000 individuals in the San Gabriel Valley each day, who complete more than a million rides each month.
Unfortunately, the system is incomplete. More than half a million residents of the Foothills communities still have no reasonable means of utilizing Metro Rail or any affordable or efficient public-transit option.
The original Gold Line proposal called for construction of the project in two stages. Phase 1, a 13.7-mile line from Los Angeles to Pasadena, would be constructed first. Later, Phase 2 would extend the line an additional 20 miles to Claremont.
Since then, Phase 2 has been divided into two parts. Construction of Phase 2A, which will extend service to Azusa, is currently underway. But Phase 2B, which would extend service to Claremont and Montclair, continues to face significant political and financial hurdles, and is in danger of being tabled. Meanwhile, formal plans to extend the line to Ontario are not even down on paper yet.
While the current effort to extend the line to Azusa is a step in the right direction, this extension will bring the rail service to less than a third of the more than 550,000 people who live in the region.
Cities like San Dimas, which has more than 30,000 residents, will continue to be out of reach. And Ontario, which is home to more than 150,000 people and the region’s largest airport, will still be more than 20 miles from the nearest Gold Line or other commuter rail service.
Recently, Rep. Judy Chu announced her support for plans to expand the Gold Line to Claremont and Ontario International Airport, saying “This will truly not be regional system until you get it going all the way to the Ontario Airport.” I agree.
Public transit is about more than just commute times. It is about connecting a region in a sensible and efficient way. It is about reducing air pollution by taking cars off the road.
It is hard for any of us who take pride in our region, to accept that the second-most densely populated metropolitan area in the nation struggles under an incomplete, disconnected transportation and transit system. Residents of other metropolitan areas around the country use well-conceived public transit systems to connect to their airports, shopping centers and business centers.
The San Gabriel Valley deserves effective and efficient transportation options, including a light-rail system, and flexible carpool lanes that are available to single occupancy vehicles during nontraditional commute hours. (Another issue I am working on.) We cannot continue to construct transit in a haphazard and patchwork fashion. It’s time for community organizations and government officials at all levels to come together and get on-board to complete the Gold Line extension through the San Gabriel Valley to provide us with a transit system that truly connects.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
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The following story originally appeared on the Pasadena Magazine website on November 5, 2013.
The Weekly Q & A: Mayor Bill Bogaard
By Matthew Fleischer
Is Pasadena the next Silicon Whatever? Quite possibly, judging by the hundreds of successful tech companies and incubators like Idealab that have launched from the city limits in recent years. But Pasadena has had difficulty retaining firms once they take off. Since first being elected Mayor in 1999, Bill Bogaard has pushed hard to convince high-tech startups and incubators to settle in Pasadena. We spoke with Mayor Bogaard about his ongoing plans to transform the city into a tech and capital-investment corridor.
You recently attended an event for Metacloud that touted Pasadena as an emerging rival to Silicon Valley. Is that an attainable goal for Pasadena?
We want to establish the Pasadena area as a center for innovation—for venture capital investment and for incubators and startup companies. But it’s not a matter of being a new Silicon Valley. It’s a matter of being the Pasadena we know we can be. We’re aware of the economic activity in Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach. We’re looking to create a space for high-tech companies to bring challenging jobs that require thoughtful and committed people.
Between Caltech, Art Center and JPL, Pasadena has no shortage of intellectual capital. What challenges do we face in making sure the brainpower in Pasadena can stay and be successful in their own private endeavors?
The traditional challenges the Pasadena area has faced in regard to entrepreneurship has been limited venture capital investment, a limited number of executives who can head a company like that, and a limited amount of space to accommodate rapidly expanding companies. We hope to overcome all of those challenges. We don’t yet have as much of those resources as would be helpful to attain our goal of being a center of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Of those challenges, the issue of high-tech office space seems the most daunting, given the constraints on available land. Increased density would appear to be the only solution. Can we build the infrastructure we need without altering Pasadena’s DNA?
Pasadena, I think, is a community that welcomes high-tech companies and wants to do everything it can do to achieve that goal. I’m confident that land is not a fatal constraint on our strategy. To the extent that greater density is the result of this effort, I think it’s important to note that the real significance of density is how it’s designed—whether it accommodates public transit instead of automobiles. That kind of sustainable planning would certainly make increased development more palatable to the community.
So it sounds like the Gold Line will play an important role in Pasadena’s transition to tech center?
Absolutely. We’ve seen how the Gold Line encourages investment. And we’re on the threshold of completing another 12 miles to the city of Azusa.
There was a very successful book written a few years ago called “The Rise of the Creative Class.” The author’s theory is that cities that succeed in the 21st Century are those that have created a quality of life that smart young people enjoy. Their style of work is to work night and day, but when they are not working they like to have fun. That means you need arts, culture, maybe sports, good restaurants, nightclubs, symphonies, and, I would argue, good public transit. That’s the model that Pasadena is equipped to pursue. We have great amenities and a quality of life that will reinforce companies’ desire to come here.
How do we keep the boutique incubator-born shops in Pasadena once they grow? Are we destined to be the birthing chamber for companies who eventually move on? Or can we reasonably hope to host the Yahoos of the world one day?
I’m confident Pasadena can get sufficient space to pursue its innovation strategy with success. The space we’re talking about is not acres and acres of raw land being committed to a heavy manufacturing operation. We need labs and other facilities that accommodate high tech companies. Last year Avon products announced it was leaving Pasadena. We at City Hall immediately viewed that as an opportunity. Its facility is a huge property with existing buildings. Here is nearly 20 acres with existing facilities we think could be converted to accommodate incubators, startups, and other more established companies. Avon is going to be staying in town for another three to five years. That’s fine, because Pasadena needs the sales tax revenue that comes with that operation. In a sense, Avon is a bird in the hand, while we pursue our innovation strategy.
Pasadena’s status as an “enterprise zone” will end in 2014, thanks to legislation passed by Governor Brown. What does that mean for the effort to recruit businesses and startups here?
This is the second major setback for Pasadena and other California cities that were practitioners of enterprise zones. A couple of years ago we lost redevelopment power that had been a source of momentum in California for almost 60 years. The loss of enterprise zones is a similar blow, though perhaps not as significant. I’m confident that on both counts Pasadena will overcome. Things might not happen as quickly. Things might not happen as elegantly. When we had redevelopment funding we could invest in capital improvements in a way we can’t do today. We want to provide parking as needed to support business activities. We want to fund, if we can, incubator and high tech space. That’s infrastructure from my point of view. All of that is something we would have pursued much more aggressively if we had redevelopment funds available.
Enterprise zones are designed to incentivize job creation. Companies could hire new employees above and beyond the existing work force, and get a significant tax credit. So they really were able to expand at much less cost than would otherwise be the case. It provided an incentive to take the risk to add additional expenses. It’s been a tool we’ve used to allow companies to expand, to stay in Pasadena when considering office space. That technique alone, however, while useful, wasn’t a game-changer.
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Crews have begun installing the six miles of light rail track needed within the $265 million Gold Line Operations Campus.