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Initiative to accelerate transportation projects in time for the LA Olympics picks up steam

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It includes the Sepulveda Pass and another Gold Line extension

A train rolls by MOCA in Downtown Los Angeles.

Metro’s governing board is moving forward with a proposal to seriously speed up several major transportation projects around Los Angeles County by 2028, when the region will host the Olympic games.

The projects include the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor, the West Santa Ana light rail line, an extension of the Green Line to Torrance, and a Gold Line extension to Whittier or El Monte. Those projects would otherwise be finished after 2028—as late as 2041 for the West Santa Ana line, which will run between Union Station and Artesia, passing through Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Vernon, Downey, Bellflower, and Cerritos along the way.

The list of projects—which includes those that are already planned or under construction now—was introduced Thursday to Metro’s Board of Directors. The board voted to schedule the initiative, dubbed Twenty-Eight by ’28, for adoption at the its next meeting in January.

“I said I would focus on three themes in the year I was honored to be your chair: To build, to ride, and to plan. To improve and accelerate the building of our transit needs, to improve the experience for our riders, and to plan for the future,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the Metro board, and who pursued the Olympic Games for Los Angeles. “The Twenty-Eight by ’28 initiative weaves all those together.”

He introduced the initiative in September saying “we should all be racing to accelerate as many projects in as many places as we can.”

Many of the 28 projects included in the initiative were already scheduled for completion before 2028, under expenditure plans for Measure R and Measure M, two voter-approved sales tax hikes dedicated to transportation. But the Twenty-Eight by ‘28 initiative tantalizingly lays out closer completion dates for several major projects that, under Metro’s current plans, have completion dates after 2028.

The Twenty-Eight by ’28 blueprint also maps out three new Metro projects that aren’t included in either Measure R or Measure M, including a “MicroTransit” service that would add Uber-like shuttles to the agency’s transportation fleet as soon as 2019.

Also included is a reworking of the busy Washington/Flower “wye” junction, where the Blue and Expo lines merge together before entering Downtown, and an extension of Metro’s tolled ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway towards San Bernardino.

Conspicuously absent from the Twenty-Eight by ’28 list is the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line, which would connect Metro’s Expo and Red lines via a yet-to-be defined route through West Hollywood.

West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said she wants that extension included in the initiative.

“Studies show this extension would serve 90,000 daily riders, more than any LRT in the country,” she said. “There’s no other prospective project that connects more Olympic destinations throughout Los Angeles than the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line.”

Regardless of whether the Crenshaw Line’s extension is added to the Twenty-Eight by ’28 list, it is a project that Metro has previously flagged for potential acceleration. Under the Measure M plan, the northern extension is scheduled to be completed around 2047.

How Metro would accelerate projects isn't totally clear. But it is evident that the agency intends to use the 2028 Olympics as an opportunity to, as the motion says, lobby for extra money “particularly from the state and federal government.”

The agency’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation is also in the early stages of evaluating potential public-private partnerships that could be used to accelerate construction around the region.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn has predicted that a public private partnership on the West Santa Ana line could accelerate the project's completion by up to 15 years. The Sepulveda Pass corridor is another project that Metro has hinted could be accelerated with a public-private partnership.