Metro Finalizes Call for Projects List

A connection between the Orange Line Bike Path (pictured) and the L.A. River Path is the most expensive bike project in the Metro Call for Projects. Photo: Jessica Meaney

Earlier today, the Metro Board of Directors approved the project list for Metro’s Call for Projects.  Every couple of years, Metro makes the call and communities submit applications for projects that are supposed to improve mobility and air quality.  This year, with the pot of funds lower than ever, the percent of money going towards bicycle and pedestrian projects is at an all-time high thanks to a motion made at the March meeting of the Metro Board of Directors by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The call provides a snapshot of priorities, as there are plenty of funds made available for road projects, but most of Los Angeles’ funded applications are about bicycle and pedestrian projects.  As we noted when the applications were first due, Los Angeles doesn’t have a perfect list, but some of the stranger projects (“Car Free Day”) didn’t make the cut.

Once approved by the Board, the Call process is over and funds will be distributed over the next several years.  Just over one quarter of the funds in the call (roughly $32 million of $123 million) will go towards bicycle and pedestrian projects county-wide, but over 80% of the funds for the city go towards people powered movement.

“We think we have a good list of projects,” commented Metro planner Brad McAllister.  ”We hope the Metro Board agrees.”  To read the full list of projects, click here.

The engine-oriented projects included a minor widening on Balboa Boulevard in the Valley, some road widenings to increase goods movement and improvements to the city’s ATSAC program.  The city will also received $1.825 million to reduce emissions of DASH Buses.

Perhaps the most impressive gains for Los Angeles comes in the form of bike parking.  The city received partial funding for thirty “bike corrals” to be spread evenly through the city’s 15 City Council Districts was a and 4 “Bike Hubs” in South L.A. to service the Expo Line.  The Bike Corrals will create 360 new bike parking spaces throughout the city and the hubs, which are similar to Long Beach’s Bike Station only smaller, will create over 400 spaces.  The addition of 760 new bike parking spots in safe and secure areas is a highlight for the city.

The grant for “bicycle friendly streets” was somewhat successful, although the grant was modified to request 20% of the funding that it did additionally.  The bicycle friendly streets grant should fund three more streets with Sharrows, wayfinding signs and traffic calming.

The largest grant for bicycle and pedestrian projects was a $2.8 million grant to construct 1.25 miles of bike path that will one day connect the Orange Line and L.A. River Bike Paths.  While the creation of a bicycle freeway network, at a cost of $100,000 per mile (a high estimate for bike lanes) that same amount of funds would create 28 miles of bike lanes.  I completely understand the arguments for Bike Paths, and we’ve published articles against them; but when you think about the mileage of bike lanes that could be created it’s hard for me to believe that’s the best use of funds.

But, if you’re looking for a bike lane project, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.  Covina, El Monte (twice), Lancaster, La Canada Flintridge and  Santa Clarita all submitted succesful applications for bike lane projects, but Los Angeles did not.

But there were pedestrian projects as well.  The most interesting project is Angels Walk in Downtown Los Angeles.  The city will install a series of way faring signage and other pedestrian improvements to create a new central avenue to try and attract tourists and make Downtown Los Angeles a better place to be outside.

A second bracket of projects are designed to increase pedestrian access to parts of the Orange Line and future Expo Line stations from high density residentual corridors.  A third group brings improvements to Washington Boulevard between Hooper and Alameda and in Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard between Gower Street and Western Avenue and Western Avenue between Hollwood Blvd and Gower St.  Both projects involve a mix of traffic calming, better intersections, and bike parking.

Los Angeles doesn’t have the best reputation for actually spending its Call for Projects funds.  McAllister mentioned that the call was slightly larger than originally projected because some cities had to return funds from previous calls although he didn’t mention the City by name.  While the call is far from perfect and L.A.’s applications doubly so, at the very least the city appears to be taking the problem of bike parking seriously if the call really does represent a snapshot of priorities.