We are reminded daily that continued population growth adds extreme pressure on transportation infrastructure, contributing to deteriorating roads, gridlock traffic and pollution. The San Fernando Valley houses about one-fifth of Los Angeles County’s 10.4 million residents and is home to one of the most heavily congested freeway corridors in the United States – the Sepulveda Pass. Yet critical infrastructure improvements vital to a top performing economy have been deferred and funding sources have decreased and grown more scarce.
In order to develop a long-term solution that can better meet regional and local needs, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority initiated a comprehensive community outreach program in all nine county sub-regions. In the San Fernando Valley, neighborhood councils, business leaders, elected officials and homeowners were asked to identify the most critical transit programs to support mobility and economic vitality in their neighborhoods.
In a bold step, Metro placed Measure M – the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan – on the November ballot to help fund transportation improvements now and for the future. The proposed one-half cent sales tax is expected to generate an estimated $860 million a year and would go a long way towards solving the most pressing transportation challenges we face in our own backyard.
If approved by voters, Metro’s plan allocates funds from Measure M to specific San Fernando Valley projects that not only ease congestion but also provide better integration between different modes of transportation and an estimated $3.4 billion in local return revenue over the next 40 years in escalated dollars.
The 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass carries more than 500,000 commuters daily and serves as a critical lifeline between the Valley and the Westside. Metro proposed to use Measure M funds to create a transit tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass. The proposed transit corridor project is expected to relieve freeway congestion and provide an alternative to driving the 405. The Sepulveda Pass Express Busway project would include bus-only on- and off-ramps using the carpool lanes and peak-hour bus rapid transit lanes.
The Orange Line would receive needed improvements and eventual conversion to light rail, which includes grade separations and operational improvements. Also included is a bus rapid transit connecting the Orange/Red Lines between North Hollywood Station and the Gold Line in Pasadena, enabling more efficient commutes.
To address the concerns of California State University Northridge students, staff, faculty and neighbors, Metro also included $180 million to implement bus rapid transit connecting the east and west ends of the Valley. Not only will this help decrease carbon emissions, traffic congestion and parking problems on and around campus, but it will encourage more utilization of public transit.
Other projects for the San Fernando Valley include bus rapid transit or rail along Van Nuys Boulevard; completing the bike path along the Los Angeles River; and the city of San Fernando Bike Master Plan.
Planned infrastructure enhancements will also allow for Metrolink to provide more service into the San Fernando Valley, which will further add to commuters’ mobility options as our region continues to grow.
To be fair, Measure M provides locally critical infrastructure benefits in each of the county’s nine sub-regions. From improving bus rapid transit, light rail, express lanes, ridesharing and bike lanes, commuters are offered a choice of multimodal transit options that are critical to improving and expanding mobility.
In a few weeks, voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballot for a smart, sensible and regionally beneficial investment plan that will provide the San Fernando Valley with many important transit improvements designed to drastically improve the way we move around the Valley and beyond.
If Measure M passes, we can build a cohesive network of transportation across all 88 cities and incorporated areas within Los Angeles County and be able to get from point A to point B, with reduced traffic and less stress, while benefiting the environment.
As transportation planners, we know that sustainable funding for infrastructure improvements requires investments now to ensure a less congested future for all of us. A “yes” vote on Measure M moves us all forward faster.
James de la Loza is senior vice president, national transportation group director for HNTB Corp., an architecture, engineering and construction firm. He also is a former chief planning officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.