The Metro Board of Directors has voted to approve proposed upgrades to the San Fernando Valley's Orange Line busway at its meeting earlier today.

The improvements, one of several transportation projects being funded by the half-cent sales tax levied through Measure M, is intended to speed travel times and enhance safety along the 18-mile corridor that stretches from the Chatsworth Metrolink station to the Red Line's North Hollywood terminus.

Plans call for the installation of 35 railroad-style crossing gates at major intersections along the length of the busway, enabling buses to cross intersections at speeds between 25 and 35 miles per hour.  Currently, they are restricted to 15 miles per hour at street crossings.

The lynchpin of the project are planned aerial structions to provide grade separation for the busway at Sepulveda and Van Nuys Boulevards.  The adjoining bike path would also be elevated above street level at these intersections.

Construction of the Orange Line upgrade is anticipated to begin in 2019 and conclude by 2025.  Funding is provided by $286 million from Measure M and $75 million from SB-1, the legislation which raised the statewide gas tax last year.  At completion, the project is expected to cut end-to-end travel lines between North Hollywood and Chatsworth by approximately 20 percent - or roughly 15 minutes - and attract up to 10,000 new weekday riders.

The improvements will also facilitate a later conversion of the Orange Line to light rail - a project that is currently not set to occur until the 2050s based on the approved Measure M expenditure plan.

Metro is currently planning two other transit projects that would intersect with the Orange Line somewhere in the Van Nuys community.

The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, which runs 9.2 miles between the Orange Line and the Sylmar Metrolink Station, calls for the construction of an at-grade light rail line at a cost of $1.3 billion.  That project is expected to begin construction in 2021 or 2022 and become operational in 2027.

Also in the early planning stages is a rail line through the Sepulveda Pass, connecting the Valley with the Purple and Expo Lines.  Alternatives currently under consideration call for 10-to-14 miles per track, to be built in phases starting in the next decade.  Construction of the full corridor - which would span as far south as LAX - would cost nearly $10 billion.