A presentation to Metro's San Fernando Valley Service Council provides a closer look at the agency's plan to speed up travel times on the Orange Line busway.
The project, which was approved by Los Angeles County voters through the Measure M sales tax initiative in 2016, would add light rail-like improvements to the 18-mile corridor, including 35 gated crossings and aerial stations and Van Nuys and Sepulveda Boulevards.
Metro estimates that the upgrades will cut the end-to-end travel times between North Hollywood and Chatsworth from approximately 55 minutes to 38 minutes - an improvement of 29 percent - while attracting 35,000 weekday passengers to the Orange Line - up from 25,000 today.
But besides speeding travel, the improvements are also intended to enhance safety on the Orange Line. According to the presentation, upwards of 6,000 illegal right turns on red lights occurred each month last year along the Orange Line, resulting in a total of 24 collisions in 2018. Crossing gates significantly reduce the chances of collisions, while elevated crossings eliminate them outright.
Though gated crossings may speed travel times for buses, they also may slow cross traffic, as reported this week by the Daily News. Metro is considering several mitigation measures to reduce impacts on motorists, including signal phasing modifications and street reconfigurations.
Metro has thus far identified $361 million in funding for the project, including $286 million from the countywide sales tax levied by Measure M, and $75 million from the statewide gas tax. The total cost of the project could range from $320 million to $393 million.
Though a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Orange Line improvements in 2018, construction is not anticipated to begin until 2020 at the earliest. A completion date is expected in 2024 or 2025. A later conversion of the busway to light rail, for which the Measure M expenditure plan earmarks $1.4 billion, is not scheduled to begin until the 2050s.
While the Orange Line improvements are the first Measure M project slated to break ground in the San Fernando Valley, there are several other projects in the works, including a light rail line on Van Nuys Boulevard, a new east-west bus rapid transit line, and a rail line through the Sepulveda Pass.