L.A. Seeks Federal TIGER Funds for 50-Mile River Bikeway

Existing Los Angeles River bike path in Elysian Valley. Photo: Joe Linton

Today’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting includes action on the Transportation Department’s (LADOT’s) proposal to seek $13million in federal funding for extending the Los Angeles River bikeway. The federal funding sought is part of a federal funding opportunity called Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), a stimulus funding that encourages innovative and sustainable transportation.

While LADOT’s proposal, detailed at Council File 11-1781, is expected to sail through committee and council approval, it still needs to compete with other municipalities seeking limited TIGER dollars. Overall the city is asking the federal money to cover $13M of an $18M project. The city application is due October 31st 2011, and grantees are expected to be notified in January 2012. If awarded, construction is targeted to begin in 2013.

The L.A. River runs about 50 miles from Canoga Park in the West San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach. About 32 miles of the river are in the city of Los Angeles. Of those 32 L.A. City miles, there’s an existing bike path for 8 miles in Northeast Los Angeles and an additional 2 miles currently under construction in the West Valley. That adds up to 10 miles complete, and 22 to go.

Bike path construction costs easily about one million dollars per mile, plus additional costs for grade separation, especially going under or over bridges. Grade crossings are especially difficult in east San Fernando Valley communities, including Studio City and Sherman Oaks, where vertical channel walls and low bridges require expensive under-crossings to create a continuous, uninterrupted path.  In Downtown Los Angeles, railroad infrastructure parallel to the river makes river access difficult and costly. With all these challenges, and only an $18M project budget, there isn’t quite enough to complete the remaining 22 miles for a continuous 32-mile bike path.

LADOT has smartly opted for an initial hybrid solution. The TIGER funding will create a continuous 32-mile bikeway, comprised of bike paths, bike lanes, and bike routes. The grant will build approximately five miles of off-street bike path and that will be complemented by about 20 miles of on-street routes and lanes. River path mileage will all be in the San Fernando Valley, with on-street facilities in the Valley and in Downtown Los Angeles.

Connecting with the existing 17-mile L.A. River bike paths downstream, extending from the city of Vernon to the city of Long Beach, the TIGER L.A. River bikeway project will result in a 50+mile-long L.A. River corridor bikeway, with a mix of paths and streets. As funding permits, additional segments of off-street bike path can be added over time.

For additional information on the city’s river bikeway TIGER application, see coverage at KCET and LADOT. See also ongoing L.A. River coverage by this author at L.A. Creek Freak.

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