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Metro Seeks Contract Modifications to Avoid Service Disruptions During $66 Million Overhaul of Rosa Parks Station

The $66 million overhaul of Watts’ Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station will result in new bus bays, a new plaza, a bike hub, easier transfer between the Blue and Green Lines, a Metro customer service center (including transit court) and better connections to the surrounding community. Source: Metro

At this Wednesday's Planning and Programming Committee meeting, Metro will ask the committee to authorize CEO Phil Washington to approve nearly $1.65 million in contract modifications for the improvement of Watts' Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station. The additional funds will bring Metro's share of the costs for the $66 million project to just under $9.7 million. [The rest of the funding comes from several sources, including a federal TIGER VI grant of $10.25 million and nearly $39 million in cap-and-trade fees.]

The contract modifications will allow RNL Design to respond to issues that arose with the redesign of the transfer mezzanine between the Blue and the Green Lines. Namely, how to manage construction without closing the station and relying on costly bus-bridging services. Operations staff proposed that two cross-over tracks and temporary overhead catenary (electrical wire) systems be constructed as part of Blue Line track and signalization upgrades. This would enable single tracking around the station with no impact on existing headways. RNL needs more time and funds to undertake that additional civil engineering and signaling design work, as well as to complete multiple design packages to facilitate phasing of the project so it meets federal funding deadlines. [See specifics of the contract modifications in attachments A and B.]

This massive overhaul of one of Metro's busiest stations, described as a "long-standing priority of the Metro Board," will be the largest investment in a single transit terminal thus far.

And it's long overdue. The 27-year-old station connects around 30,000 passengers daily to the Blue and Green Lines, several Metro bus lines, and a range of local buses and shuttles. But moving between transit options is not all that comfortable or convenient: the stairwell connecting the Green and Blue Lines is narrow and creates bottlenecks (especially when the Sheriffs would stand at the landing midway down, checking TAP cards), has TAP machines that seemed to regularly malfunction, and can make life miserable for those trying to move between platforms with strollers or bikes. As the Blue Line and bus lines are located under the 105 freeway, the station also tends to feel quite dark and not particularly welcoming.

The Willowbrook Station, looking South. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station, looking south. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The Willowbrook Station, looking South. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The redesign should help passengers make seamless connections between transit options and new affordable housing, the public library, the Martin Luther King, Jr. medical complex, and retail shops just south of the station.

According to Metro's project summary (found here), the Blue Line platform will be extended south (numbers 1 and 2 below), to bring it out into the sun and and to connect passengers to the new Civic Plaza (no. 7). The existing bus depots will be consolidated along that new plaza, on Willowbrook Avenue West (no. 13). Connections between the Green and Blue Lines will be made easier with the expansion of the transfer mezzanine and improvements to stairwells, escalators, and elevators (no. 3).

The park & ride lot will also be reconfigured, a pick-up and drop-off site will be added (no. 12), and the station as a whole will see new landscaping, lighting, shelters, and circulation elements that will make the station more inviting.

Access to the station from the north - particularly for cyclists traveling southbound on Wilmington (or pedestrians walking on the west side of Wilmington) will remain somewhat fraught. Source: Google maps.

Connecting to the station itself should be easier as well, at least from the south.

New crosswalks at Wilmington (including at 120th), pedestrian promenades, improved at-grade pedestrian crossings (no. 2), and a (super short) buffered bike lane along Willowbrook Avenue West to 119th St. should also help make connections and movement through the area easier.

Source: Metro
Source: Metro
Source: Metro

The new pedestrian plaza will be home to a new Metro customer service center, (below), a security facility, an operator's lounge, and a bike hub, where cyclists can lock up their bikes and get (or learn how to do) repairs.

The Metro service center will include a new transit court to make it easier for residents to appeal and pay fines. Considering that the Blue Line-riding population count among the region's most heavily ticketed, this is both good (in that it could make it easier for people with a limited transit budget or time to contest or take care of any tickets) and bad (in that both that and the presence of a security facility on site might mean folks are more likely to be ticketed than they already are). The security facility planned for the site was intended to be a Sheriff substation. With a newly approved policing contract giving the bulk of the responsibility for policing the trains within the city of L.A. to the LAPD, it is not clear who will occupy that space now, or whether Metro and the Sheriff's Department will abandon the existing transportation station across the street from the stop, on Willowbrook Avenue.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 2.26.53 PM
The new Metro customer service center, just south of the entrance to the Green Line transfer mezzanine. Source: Metro
Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 2.26.27 PM

Beyond these services, Metro also envisions the plaza as a hub for community activities, including movie nights, special exhibits, community celebrations, and food trucks.

Should the contract modifications be approved, it is not clear what the new timeline for the project would be. At present, RNL Design is expected to finish their redesign of the station later this year. Once design is complete, permitting and construction bidding will get underway. Metro anticipated the bidding process would continue through early 2018, with actual construction beginning soon after and being completed in 2020. Federal funding deadlines, which require project funds to be spent by 2021, don't leave much room for any delays the additional design work might require.

While the upgrades for the south end of the station look very promising, it appears that connecting to the station on foot or by bike from the north side will continue to remain uncomfortable. Because of the angle at which the tracks cross Wilmington (below), there aren't too many simple interventions that Metro can perform to make that crossing easier.

Access to the station from the north - particularly for cyclists traveling southbound on Wilmington (or pedestrians walking on the west side of Wilmington) will remain somewhat fraught. Source: Google maps.
Access to the station from the north - particularly for cyclists traveling southbound on Wilmington (or pedestrians walking on the west side of Wilmington) will remain somewhat fraught. The station is just out of view, at bottom. Source: Google maps.
Access to the station from the north - particularly for cyclists traveling southbound on Wilmington (or pedestrians walking on the west side of Wilmington) will remain somewhat fraught. Source: Google maps.

That said, the use of bollards or planters to expand that traffic-guiding triangle just south of the tracks, the addition of zebra crosswalks, and curb cuts to the sidewalks around the intersection could help give pedestrians and cyclists more visibility and smoother passage.

For more information on the upgrades, see our past coverage here and Metro's agenda and related documents here.

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