Is Metro Ready for “30 in 10?”

4_1_10_30_IN_10.jpgIs everyone ready for 30 in 10 Except Metro?

(This is a two-part series.  Part II tomorrow Monday.- DN)

You don't need me to tell you that there is a lot of excitement about the "30 in 10" proposal to use federal loans to get all Measure R projects completed within ten years.  The idea isn't just gaining momentum on Capital Hill, but all of a sudden, other cities are looking to Los Angeles as a model for transit planning.  Unasked in all of this is whether or not Metro could handle construction of the Crenshaw Corridor Project, Expo Phase II, The Green Line to LAX, the Regional Connector, the I-405 Corridor Project, the Green Line South Bay Extension and, of course, the Subway to the Sea.

Transit advocates gave a mixed response when asked their thoughts on Metro's ability to carry this load all at once.  Most of the concerns weren't with the competence of Metro, as was brought up in a City Watch column on the same issue last week, but with other issues such as the ability to marshal the needed contractors and resources.  Others brought up the issue of operations.  If all of the needed funds were to come from Washington, how would Metro pay to run all of these new lines after they were built?

The concern isn't limited to activists.  In December, Mayor Villaraigosa and Metro Board Chair Ara Najarian co-sponsored a motion asking Metro to bring in some auditors to determine just that.  PB America has issued a preliminary report outlining some of the changes it feels Metro needs to make to its procurement, construction and project management teams and procedures to make their process more efficient.

But that doesn't mean that the top brass at Metro isn't positive Measure R's promise can be completed on an accelerated time table.  Officials from the Mayor's office expressed confidence, after consulting with other public and some private officials, that they can meet this goal.  However, Metro is going to have to increase its efficiencies regardless of whether "30 in 10" comes to fruition.  In just the next couple of years, before Mayor Villaraigosa is term-limited out of office, Metro should have completed the Canoga Extension of the Orange Line and Phase I of the Expo Line.  In addition, the Foothill Extension of the Gold Line, the Crenshaw Corridor project, Phase II of the Expo Line, the first phase of the Westside Subway and the Regional Connector should all have started construction.  With or without "30 in 10," Metro has its work cut out for it.

One issue that seems to be of serious concern is the competitiveness of Metro's procurement process.  In the middle of a recession, Metro was able to get one bid for the I-405 Widening, a project that construction companies should have been jumping at.  Page 19 of the preliminary report has a couple of vague recommendations that show that while there isn't a game plan to fix this issue, it is one that Metro and PB know needs to be addressed.

But officials concede that as currently constructed, Metro isn't ready as of yet, but they believe it can be soon.  Jaime de la Vega, the Deputy Mayor for Transportation for the City of Los Angeles, explains “MTA is definitely in a state of change right now. We have a new CEO and Measure R is the first sales tax for transit in the last 18 years…Now that there’s money and political will power and expectations that these projects will get done in a timely manner. I think it’s doable and I think MTA will get it done."

So, in addition to getting the "30 in 10" reforms passed in Washington, D.C.  Angelenos will also need Metro to reorganize itself before it can tackle all of these projects.  The final PB America report is due in June, then, assuming the Metro Board is on board, CEO Art Leahy will have to lead in the reorganization.

Which takes us to the next questions.  If we assume that neither funding nor Metro's competence and organization are in question, is it possible to have every Measure R transit project ready for launch by 2020?