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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

New Routes for Valley’s Future

With light rail in Los Angeles, we’ve come a long, long way. But the San Fernando Valley still has more work to do. The board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority just released a draft expenditure plan for a potential ballot measure to fund transformative transportation infrastructure projects in the Valley and the rest of Los Angeles County. We’re not talking about an extra lane on the highway, or even a new overpass. This is big. According to Metro’s plan, the potential ballot measure could buy voters a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass connecting the Valley to the Westside and alleviating traffic on the 405. The Valley would also get immediate improvements to the overcrowded Orange Line busway and its eventual conversion to light rail. Finally, we’d get a new light-rail line from the Sylmar Metrolink station to the Orange Line along San Fernando Road and Van Nuys Boulevard, providing a robust transit spine down the middle of the Valley. In addition, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association is supporting a series of improvements to better serve the students, faculty and staff of Cal State Northridge, which has a daytime population of nearly 50,000 people. Those moves could include relocating the Northridge Metrolink station to Reseda Boulevard, vastly increasing connectivity to the campus. VICA believes that Metro’s plan could not only alleviate the hair-pulling, coffee-consuming stress of the 405 and 101, but also provide an improved north-south connectivity Valley residents have needed for decades. The plan is to equip the Valley with the type of transportation infrastructure every other city in America with a population even close to us in size already has. It’s a testament to the diligence of the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments and Metro officials who listened to the voice of stakeholders and worked together to create this consensus for an impressive list of projects. Imagine, a light-rail system that lets Valley commuters avoid the nightmarish deluge of cars in weekday traffic on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass that has been ignominiously quantified as the worst in the nation – to the tune of nearly 90 hours a week of unproductive standstill spent on the road for L.A. commuters. That’s an estimated 10 hours higher than a previous 2013-14 study. An improved bus-line conversion alone is expected to increase capacity by approximately 300 percent, cutting costs and improving commuting time. But we didn’t get here by accident. In 2013, county Supervisor Michael Antonovich proposed that for the next sales tax measure, Metro should institute a bottom-up approach that would ask local stakeholders what they wanted to see in a transportation improvement plan. Here in the Valley, we started organizing Valley on Track, including neighborhood councils, business groups and labor organizations, around the idea that by uniting on a specific set of important capital projects, the Valley could join the transit revolution that the rest of the county is already enjoying. As part of that process, Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian authored a bill in 2014 that made Orange Line improvements such as light rail possible for Valley residents. Then, Valley on Track worked closely with the leadership of the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments, including council members Bob Blumenfield and Paul Krekorian, to have the organization include the Valley on Track projects in its priority list for Metro. Finally, thanks to the strong support of a core of Metro board members, including Antonovich, Krekorian, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, all three projects made it into the draft Metro Expenditure Plan. Completion of these projects will alleviate cross-town traffic, improve the flow of goods and services, and raise the quality of life in our area. But we haven’t completely won yet. The Metro board will adopt the final plan sometime in the next few months, and then the voters have to pass the funding measure by a two-thirds supermajority in November.  VICA and the Valley on Track coalition urge Valley residents, businesses and stakeholders to keep an eye on the direction transportation is moving in the Valley. The next few months will be critical to the Valley’s future for decades to come. Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a Sherman Oaks-based business advocacy organization that represents L.A. County employers at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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