Metro Steps Up Security In Response to Terror Threat

December 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

With nerves still rattled by an unfounded bomb threat targeting a Southland rail station Tuesday, the discovery of a discarded jacket on the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena prompted a bomb squad response Wednesday, along with a commute-snarling freeway closure and the shutdown of an adjacent Gold Line station.

A man whose name has not been released but who is suspected of throwing the jacket on the freeway was later arrested.

The bomb squad was summoned shortly before 8:30 a.m. when something believed to be a suspicious package was spotted along the eastbound freeway median at Lake Avenue, adjacent to the Gold Line Lake station. Both sides of the 210 Freeway were closed down, creating a miles-long parking lot.

Some drivers stranded on the freeway turned off their engines and exited their vehicles while they passed the time.

“It’s become like a community out here,” one motorist told City News Service.

With the Gold Line station closed, buses shuttled passengers between the Allen and Memorial Park stations.

The sheriff’s bomb squad eventually sent in a robot to examine the item. The robotic arm was used to pick up the item, which turned out to be a jacket. Sheriff’s officials declared the item not to be a threat, and the freeway was reopened at about 10:45 a.m. The Lake Avenue on-ramp remained closed for a time, but finally re-opened around 11:10 a.m., according to authorities.

Trains resumed normal service, but Metro officials warned passengers to expect residual delays for a while.

LASD Transit Policing Division spokesman Ramon Montenegro told City News Service that cameras at the Gold Line station caught a man tossing the item onto the freeway near the station. The Pasadena Star-News reported that the man was taken into custody after struggling with deputies at the nearby Memorial Park station.

The suspect is facing a charge of obstructing officers, but a background check revealed that he has $80,000 worth of warrants.

“He (the suspect) may be facing additional charges,” Montenegro said.

The disruption came two days after a bogus tip warning about a possible “explosive device” that would be detonated Tuesday at the Metro Red Line station on Lankershim Boulevard across from Universal Studios was phoned into authorities.

That tip, made from a pay phone reportedly used to communicate bogus threats in the past, was relayed to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on Monday morning and led to a massive law-enforcement presence at rail stations throughout the area on Tuesday.

Authorities learned about the threat from someone in Australia who called a public safety line and provided information about the alleged plot.

Commuters who rely on Metro rail lines were met with heavy security Tuesday as local and federal authorities responded to the tip. The Universal City Station was heavily fortified, with barricades and a throng of sheriff’s deputies and police officers wielding high-powered weapons.

Investigators eventually found no evidence to corroborate the warning of a possible bomb, the FBI announced Tuesday night, but security remained elevated on the rail system Wednesday.

 

Commerce Considers Impacts of Gold Line Eastside Extension

December 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

For more than a year, Metro officials have been conducting technical studies to fine-tune two proposed alternatives for Phase 2 of the Gold Line Eastside Extension, including taking a closer look at what it would take to bring rail service to the City of Commerce.

Though there are talks that in the future both alternatives ¬– one along the SR-60 Pomona Freeway and the other traveling south to Washington Boulevard – could come to fruition, the City of Commerce is very interested in seeing the Washington alternative built first, Councilwoman Lilia R. Leon said during the Nov. 15 city council meeting.

A Gold Line connection to Washington Boulevard would create the opportunity for stops near the Citadel Outlets or Commerce Casino, the two largest revenue generators for the city.

“What we heard loud and clear was the idea of exploring a Metro connection to the Citadel,” said Eugene Kim, project manager for the Eastside Phase 2 Project.

The two alternatives up for discussion have not changed much since they were presented to the public in late March.

One possible alternative would extend the Gold Line 6.9 miles east – from where it currently ends at Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles – along the SR-60 Pomona Freeway and ending in South El Monte. The second alternative would travel nearly 9 miles, providing a north-south connection from Atlantic Boulevard to Washington Boulevard, before traveling east to the city of Whittier.

Metro plans to present the two refined alternatives to the public in spring 2017 and begin talking about reinitiating the environmental impact report process, according to Kim.

One of the biggest challenges Metro officials face however, is selecting a route to get to Washington Boulevard, says Kim.

Earlier this year, Metro identified Garfield Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard and Arizona Avenue as the three most promising routes for the connection. The two latter options would allow for a stop near the Citadel, but present challenges in the heavily congested area known as the Mixmaster, where Atlantic Boulevard crosses the I-5 Santa Ana Freeway.

“Commerce is a very important partner in identifying ways to make that connection,” Kim said.

Eastside residents and business owners have repeatedly expressed complained that under the current proposals their community would once again have to shoulder more than its fair share of the burden from transportation projects in the region, as it has done for decades.

Many believe the Washington Alternative would benefit the Citadel and Commerce Casino at the expense of eastside residents forced to live through the construction. They claim eastside businesses would also suffer, just like they did when the Gold Line was first extended to the eastside along 3rd Street.

“Someone is going to lose and someone is going to gain, but we haven’t done any of the gaining so far,” East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Eddie Torres told the Commerce City Council during their meeting.

“You need to take some of the impacts too.”

Metro left “no stone unturned” when it considered 27 possible alternatives to reach the Washington Corridor, Kim said, but ultimately it will be necessary to cut through Commerce.

Other potential challenges include routes that travel near Southern California Edison transmission lines, crossing a very active freight corridor and rail spurs that serve local businesses.

“Without an alternative that has the support of the city, cooperation of city staff, it will be very difficult to identify a real viable Washington Boulevard Corridor alternative,” Kim explained.

Metro officials are looking at designs that include aerial and underground stations to address the obstacles.

An underground station in close proximity to the widely visited Citadel Outlets could be possible with a tunnel-boring machine, but that would require Metro to acquire up to 5-acres of land, Kim told the council.

Metro officials are also looking for a 12- to 15-acre site for a maintenance facility to compliment the project.

“Have you been looking at the city of Commerce,” Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca Del Rio asked Kim.

“We’ve been looking everywhere along the corridor,” he responded.

Metro officials have not identified a specific area or parcel for the proposed facility, but back in October they took Commerce officials on a tour of a Metro maintenance yard in Santa Monica to give them a better understanding of what such a facility could look like if built in the city.

The idea of building such a large facility, coupled with the tunnel-boring activity, has city officials concerned about what they see as the inevitable disruption to the city’s busiest commercial corridor.

The city needs more details about what would go on “because we have a lot of activity around that whole area and those impacts need to be properly assessed, ” Councilman Hugo Argumedo said.

Councilwoman Leila Leon was quick to point out that although a Washington route would serve the city’s major destinations, it is just as crucial to work with its neighbors.

“It’s not about the Citadel or casino,” said Leon, acknowledging that “yes we would benefit.”

“We need to look at how we can partner with the Eastside to revitalize East Los Angeles, so they’re not feeling left out.”

 

Commerce Considera Impacto de Extensión de Línea Dorada

December 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Durante más de un año, los funcionarios de Metro han realizado estudios técnicos para finalizar dos propuestas alternativas para la segunda fase de la Extensión del Lado Este de la Línea Dorada. Un análisis, ha sido incluido también para averiguar lo que implicaría traer el servicio ferroviario a la Ciudad de Commerce.

Aunque se ha discutido que en el futuro ambas alternativas- una a lo largo de la Autopista SR-60 hacia Pomona y la otra viajando al sur del Bulevar Washington- podrían llegar a buen puerto, la Ciudad de Commerce está primordialmente interesada en ver la alternativa de Washington construida primero, dijo Lilia R. León durante la reunión del consejo municipal el 15 de noviembre.

Una conexión de la Línea Dorada con el Bulevar Washington crearía la oportunidad de paradas cerca de los Citadel Outlets o del Commerce Casino, los dos mayores generadores de ingresos para la ciudad.

“Lo que escuchamos alto y claro fue la idea de explorar una conexión del Metro con Citadel”, dijo Eugene Kim, gerente del Proyecto de Segunda Fase del Lado Este.

Las dos alternativas para discusión no han cambiado mucho desde que fueron presentadas al público a finales de marzo.

Una posible alternativa sería extender la Línea Dorada a 6.9 millas al este – desde donde actualmente termina el Bulevar Atlantic en el Este de Los Ángeles – a lo largo de la Autopista SR-60 hacia Pomona y terminando en el sur de El Monte. La segunda alternativa viajaría casi nueve millas, proporcionando una conexión norte-sur del Bulever Atlantic al Bulevar Washington, antes de viajar hacia el este a la ciudad de Whittier.

Metro planea presentar las dos alternativas refinadas al público en la primavera del 2017 y comenzará a discutir cómo reiniciar el proceso de informe del impacto ambiental, de acuerdo con Kim.

Uno de los mayores desafíos que enfrentan los funcionarios de Metro es seleccionar una ruta para llegar al Bulevar Washington, dice Kim.

A principios de este año, Metro identificó la Avenida Garfield, el Bulevar Atlantic y la Avenida Arizona como las tres rutas más prometedoras para la conexión. Las dos últimas opciones permitirían una parada cerca de los Citadels pero presentarían desafíos en la zona congestionada conocida como el “Mixmaster”, donde el Bulevar Atlantic se cruza con la Autopista I-5 hacia Santa Ana.

“Commerce es un socio muy importante para la identificación de las maneras posibles de hacer esa conexión”, Kim dijo.

Los residentes de la zona y los dueños de negocios locales se han quejado repetidamente que de que bajo las propuestas actuales su comunidad de nuevo tendría que asumir más que su justa parte de la carga para los proyectos de transporte en la región, como lo ha hecho durante décadas.

Muchos creen que la alternativa de Washington beneficiaría a los Citadels y al Commerce Casino pero a la expensa de los residentes que se verían obligados a aguantar la construcción. Ellos afirman que las empresas del lado este también sufrirán, al igual que lo hicieron cuando la Línea Dorada se extendió por primera vez allí a lo largo de la Calle 3.

“Alguien perderá y alguien ganará, pero aun no hemos ganado nada hasta el momento”, dijo el presidente de la Cámara de Commerce del Este de Los Ángeles, Eddie Torres, al Consejo de la ciudad durante su reunión.

“Tienen que aceptar algunos de los impactos también”.

Metro analizó todas sus opciones cuando consideró 27 posibles alternativas para llegar al Corredor de Washington, dijo Kim, pero últimamente será necesario cortar a través de Commerce.

Otros desafíos potenciales incluyen rutas que viajarán cerca de las líneas de transmisión de Southern California Edison, cruzando un corredor de carga muy activo y espuelas ferroviarias útiles para empresas locales.

“Sin una alternativa que tenga el apoyo de la ciudad y la cooperación del personal de la ciudad, será muy difícil identificar una alternativa viable del Corredor del Bulevar Washington”, explicó Kim.

Funcionarios del Metro están buscando diseños que incluyan estaciones aéreas y subterráneas para enfrentar los obstáculos.

Una estación de metro cercana a los ampliamente visitados Citadel Outlets podría ser posible con una máquina de perforación de túneles, pero eso requeriría que Metro adquiriera hasta cinco acres de tierra, le dijo Kim al consejo.

Funcionarios del Metro también están buscando un sitio de 12 a 15 acres para una instalación de mantenimiento para complementar el proyecto.

“¿Ha considerado a la ciudad de Commerce?”, preguntó la alcalde Pro Tem, Tina Baca Del Río a Kim.

“Hemos estado buscando en todas partes a lo largo del corredor” él respondió.

Los funcionarios del Metro no han identificado un área específica para la instalación propuesta, pero en octubre invitaron a los funcionarios de Commerce a visitar a un patio de mantenimiento de Metro en Santa Mónica para darles una mejor idea de cómo podría ser una instalación si se construyera en la ciudad.

La idea de construir una instalación tan grande, junto con la actividad del túnel, tiene a los funcionarios de la ciudad preocupados por lo que ven como la interrupción inevitable del corredor comercial más activo de la ciudad.

La ciudad necesita más detalles sobre lo que sucedería “porque tenemos mucha actividad en toda ese área y esos impactos necesitan ser evaluados adecuadamente”, dijo el concejal Hugo Argumedo.

La concejal Leila León se apresuró a señalar que aunque una ruta de Washington serviría a los principales destinos de la ciudad, es igualmente crucial trabajar con sus vecinos.

“No se trata de los Citadels o del casino”, dijo León, reconociendo que “sí nos beneficiaríamos”.

“Tenemos que ver cómo podemos asociarnos con el lado Este para revitalizar esa área de Los Ángeles, para que no se sientan excluidos”.

Say No to Measure M and Start Over

November 3, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

Measure M is about two L.A.’s.

One is the invisible L.A., our L.A., the Southeast and South Bay parts of the county. The L.A. that is invisible to the people who wrote Measure M. The L.A. that would pay for Measure M right away, and would wait for decades to see results.

The other L.A. is wealthy L.A., downtown L.A., West L.A. – the L.A. that wrote Measure M, and that would benefit from it right from the start.

That’s why our L.A. needs to say no to Measure M.

Let’s talk details:

Measure M is the sales tax increase that MTA put on the November ballot. It raises the sales tax a half-cent – forever. For good measure, it makes the half-cent increase from the last transit tax, which was going to expire – it makes that permanent too.

That money, which pushes our sales tax up over 9.50 percent and in some cities like Commerce to 10 percent, goes to pay for a long list of transportation improvement projects. Projects are in just about every part of the county – new light rail lines, freeway improvements, more buses.

And in the San Fernando Valley, in the San Gabriel Valley, in West L.A. – Measure M might be a pretty good deal. Billions of dollars are set aside for the projects in those parts of the county, and if Measure M passes, those projects start almost right away.

But if you live in Commerce, or in Norwalk, or Carson, or Paramount, or Torrance, or Long Beach – if you are one of the millions of us in the Southeast and South Bay, this is what they tell us.

They tell us that improving traffic on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass – that’s important to everyone, whether you live there or not. And they tell us that improving traffic on the 405 along the South Bay Curve – that can wait.

Building the Gold Line out from Azusa to Claremont – that’s important to everyone. So important in fact, that they call it the brain train”. And they tell us that building a light rail line from Artesia, up through the southeast to Union Station – that can wait. (We’re not on the “brain train” apparently.)

And when we say “wait”, we mean wait. The Measure M Plan has a 2041 completion date for Artesia.

If you have a daughter who started kindergarten this year, she will be 14 when they finish that Gold Line extension to Claremont. But your daughter will be taking her first ride on that line from Artesia to Union Station when she’s 31. If you’re 35 today, you’ll be 43 when work starts on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass. But you can take your grandchildren with you to see them start work on the 405 along the South Bay Curve, because you’ll be 64.

Want one more? If you’re retiring this year at 65, you’ll be 74 when they finish work on the LA River Bikepath. But eat right and stay healthy if you want to see work finished on the southern stretch of the I-5, because they’ll be wrapping that up for your 90th birthday.

You can see the pattern. Work in the wealthy parts of the county goes first. Work in our part of the county comes later, much later. The people in charge of MTA, the downtown L.A. power brokers – they wrote Measure M. They put our projects at the end – and they put the projects for the wealthy parts of the county up front.

They turn around and say, vote for Measure M. They say, start paying for Measure M right now. They say, wait, and wait, and wait, we’ll get to you.

Now, we are not saying put all of our projects ahead of everyone else’s projects. We are not saying projects in other parts of the county aren’t important also. We are just saying – don’t put us at the back of the bus. We are just saying that we live here too, and traveling back and forth, to work, to school, to family and friends – it isn’t easy for us either.

We all share the cost of Measure M – we should all share the work that Measure M pays for – in our lifetime.

None of this should have been a surprise downtown. We’ve been asking for help with our freeways, we’ve been asking for more bus service and new light rail service for years. If they’d treated us like Angelinos, just like the people who live in the Valley or in Westwood – this could have been different.

But they didn’t. They treated us, the Southeast, as if we were invisible. So the only way now we can make them see us, is to vote NO on Measure M – start over – and do it right.

Jon R. Reno is president of the Commerce Industrial Council Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Director. Eddie D. Tafoya is the Chamber’s CEO & Executive Director.

Ciudades Industriales Preocupadas Por Retornos de Medida M

October 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

La formula de financiamientos del Metro es injustas hacia las ciudades con pequeñas poblaciones pero con altos números de trabajadores y congestiones de tráfico, reclaman ciudades industriales como Vernon y Commerce.

A no ser de que se cambie la formula, los oficiales de ambas ciudades dicen que no esperan recibir mucho dinero si se llegará a aprobar la Medida M. Esta, una medida que se incluirá en las balotas del 8 de noviembre, la cual busca un nuevo y permanente incremento de impuestos de medio centavo para pagar por proyectos de transportación.

De acuerdo a las ciudades, ellos generan millones de dólares en ingresos fiscales de impuestos de ventas al año para cubrir los proyectos de transportación en el Condado de Los Ángeles. Pero ya que Metro asigna el dinero basado en la populación residencial, ellos solo reciben de regreso una fracción a comparación de lo que las demás reciben. Las ciudades se quejan de que no se les ha dado ayuda por el costo que han sufrido con el tremendo movimiento de bienes que ellos sobreviven en sus calles.

“La formula de devolución es una desventaja para Vernon por su baja populación de residentes”, dijo el portavoz de Vernon, Fred McFarlane. Con solo 120 residentes, McFarlane dice que Vernon “no recibe de regreso lo que invierte”.

Una unión de ciudades en el sureste y en la bahía del sur, incluyendo a Commerce, se oponen a la Medida M con la base de que décadas pasaran antes de que se beneficien de proyectos que alivien el atasco de tráfico a lo largo de las autopistas I-5 y 710.

Los partidarios de la medida alegan de que los estimados $860 millones que se generaran bajo la Medida M cosecharán sus beneficios a lo largo del condado. Con eso se pagaran las reparaciones de calles, mejoramientos de transportación, nuevos carriles y líneas de autobuses que ayudarán a aliviar los problemas de tráfico.

Similar a la Medida R, aprobada por los votantes en el 2008, la Medida M requerirá dos tercios de la aprobación de los votantes. Si llegará a ser aprobada, los consumidores empezarían a pagar un impuesto de ventas adicional de medio centavo en el 2017. Este impuesto después subiría a 1 centavo en el 2039, cuando la Medida R expire.

vernon-streets

Trabajadores de la ciudad reparan calles en zonas industriales. Foto: EGP News

De acuerdo al Metro, el 17 por ciento de los impuestos de ventas colectados bajo la Medida M será regresado a las 88 ciudades del condado y a las zonas no registradas con un criterio per cápita entre el 2017 al 2040. Todo cuando la cantidad de regreso salte a un 20 por ciento, más alto que el 15% alocado actualmente bajo la Medida R.

Dichos fondos están limitados y solamente podrán ser usados para financiar proyectos relacionados con la transportación como lo son servicies de autobuses locales, calles, aceras, reparaciones de baches, sincronizaciones de las señales de tránsito y los carriles para bicicletas.

Oficiales del Metro aseguran que el retorno local es una manera de sacarle algo a la medida en la balota para cada ciudad en el condado.

“Aquellos que apoyan a la medida dicen que las ciudades podrán arreglar sus calles pero esto no es una solución única, o declaración precisa”, le dijo Jorge Rifa, administrador de la ciudad de Commerce, a EGP. “Para las ciudades con pequeñas populaciones residenciales pero con grandes entornos trabajadores, no es igual”.

Commerce genera casi $8 millones al año gracias a los impuestos sobre ventas de la Medida R, pero ya que el retorno local está basado en la populación, con solamente 13,000 residentes, la ciudad solo recibe $150,000 al año. Bajo la Medida M, Commerce duplicaría su contribución a $16 millones pero solo recibiría alrededor de $300,000, de acuerdo a Rifa, quien señala que la populación en el día se hincha a un total de 45,000 cuando se cuenta la cantidad de trabajadores.

A un par de millas, la Ciudad de Vernon también carece suerte cuando se trata de recibir financiamiento para transportación. Con solo 120 residentes, la ciudad no recibe ni un centavo bajo la Medida R, aunque genera millones en impuestos sobre ventas para el Metro. En el pasado, la ciudad se ha excluido de recibir financiamientos de parte de la Medida R por el costo del proceso de aplicación, lo cual es más que lo que la ciudad recibiría, unos aproximados $2,300 de retorno.

A comparación, con casi 42,000 residentes, Bell Gardens recibe casi $480,000 al año en financiamientos de parte de la Medida R, después de generar $1.5 millones al año en impuestos sobre ventas.

Vernon no ha declarado una posición formal en respecto a la Medida M pero es una de las 23 ciudades que conforman el Gateway Cities Council of Government, el cual está encabezando una campaña para “educar” a los votantes sobre el impacto de la Medida M en sus ciudades.

El Consejo de la Ciudad de Vernon, sin embargo, pasó una resolución en mayo cuestionando al Consejo de Metro en cómo se asignan los fondos. Al igual que Commerce, las calles en su mayoría industriales son impactadas por camiones pesados que viajan hacia la ciudad y salen de sus cientos de bodegas y fabricas, los cuales también atraen casi 50,000 trabajadores al día a la ciudad.

Con 47 millas por mantener, Vernon necesita aproximadamente $18.1 millones en reparaciones de pavimento de calles por los próximos cinco años, de acuerdo a documentos de la ciudad. Sin ingresos locales la ciudad debe financiar los proyectos usando ingresos del fondo general.

Yusseff Robb, portavoz para la campaña Sí a la Medida M, señaló que la medida permite al Consejo del Metro a interpretar la formula basada en la populación en una manera que incluya la populación del día.

“No es una promesa sino que es la ley”, Robb le dijo a EGP. “Después que la Medida M pase, los retornos locales exactos serán determinados en colaboración con cada uno de las ciudades para asegurar que todos obtengan una parte justa la cual refleje en realidad a sus comunidades”.

Por su ubicación a lo largo del I-5, SR-710 y con tráfico pesado de camiones, los oficiales de Commerce han repetidamente destacado el rol de la ciudad como uno de los puertos secos más concurridos del país. Esto, un punto que se ha estado explicando en varias reuniones de las municipalidades acerca de la Medida M y en información distribuida a los residentes.

Un retorno de $150,000 simplemente cubriría una aplicación básica de aceite en tres de los cuatro bloques, explica Rifa, detallando las condiciones deficientes de las carreteras en ciudades industriales con tráfico pesado.

“Estamos dañando nuestras calles profundamente con los camiones”, dijo Rifa. “Simplemente no podemos continuar”.

Eric Garcetti, alcalde de Los Ángeles y miembro del Consejo de Directores del Metro, asistió a una reunión del Consejo de la Ciudad de Commerce, a principios de este mes, con la esperanza de cambiar la posición en contra de la Medida M del consejo. Él les informó que había está al tanto de sus preocupaciones, acerca de la formula de retorno, y prometió en buscar un modo para lidiar con el flujo de trabajadores en la ciudad durante el día.

Rifa también sugiere que la formula local de retorno no debería de ser basada en la populación pero en cambio en el numero de millas de calle en las ciudades, lo cual en Commerce es un total de 65.5 millas.

“Estamos buscando la igualdad y equidad”, dijo Rifa. “Nuestras calles requieren reparaciones significativas para proveer las necesidades de transportación a nuestra comunidad y región.”

‘Industrial Cities’ Want Metro to Revamp its Funding Forumula

October 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Metro’s funding formula is unfair to cities with small residential populations but large numbers of workers and traffic congestion complain industrial cities like Vernon and Commerce.

Unless the formula is changed, officials in both cities say they don’t expect to see much more money coming their way even if voters approve Measure M, a new, permanent half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects that’s on the Nov. 8 ballot.

According to the cities, they generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue yearly for transportation projects in Los Angeles County, but because Metro allocates money based on residential population they only get back a fraction of what other cities generating the same amount of revenue receive. They complain that no credit is given to the tremendous burden the goods movement has had on their streets and on their residents.

“The local return formula comes at a disadvantage to Vernon because of its low resident population,” says Vernon Spokesman Fred McFarlane. With just 120 residents, McFarlane says Vernon “doesn’t get back what it puts in.”

A coalition of cities in the Southeast and South Bay oppose Measure M on the grounds it will be decades before projects to relieve near gridlock conditions along the I-5 and 710 freeways see the light of day.

Supporters counter that the estimated $860 million generated each year under Measure M will reap benefits countywide, paying for highway and street repairs, transportation improvements and new rail and bus lines that will help alleviate traffic woes that will only get worse if not funded.

Similar to Measure R – approved by voters in 2008 – Measure M requires two-thirds voter approval. If it passes, consumers will start paying an additional half-cent sales tax in 2017. It will jump to 1-cent in 2039 when the Measure R half-cent sales tax expires.

According to Metro, 17 percent of all sales tax collected under Measure M will be returned to the County’s 88 cities and unincorporated areas on a per capita basis between 2017 and 2040, when the return amount jumps to 20 percent, which is higher than the 15 percent currently allocated under Measure R.

The funds are restricted and can only be used to pay for transportation-related projects such as local bus service, street, sidewalk and pothole repairs, traffic signal synchronization and bike lanes.

Metro officials claim the local return is a way for every city in the county to get something out of the ballot measure.

“Supporters of the measure say cities will be able to fix their streets but this is not a one-size-fits –all accurate statement,” Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP. “For cities with small resident populations but a large worker environment, it doesn’t come close.”

vernon-streets

City workers repair damaged roads in industrial cities. Photo by EGP News.

Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue, but because the local return is based on population, with just 13,000 residents, the city only gets back $150,000 a year. Under Measure M, Commerce would double its contribution to $16 million but still only receive about $300,000 a year, according to Rifa, who notes that the city’s daytime population swells to about 45,000 when the number of people working in the city is taken into account.

A couple miles down the road, highly industrial Vernon is also out of luck when it comes to the transportation funding. With just 120 residents, the city does not receive a dime in Measure R revenue, even though it generates millions in sales tax revenue for Metro. In the past, the city has opted out of receiving Measure R funding because the cost to apply is more than the approximately $2,300 the city would receive in funds.

In comparison, with 42,000 residents, nearby Bell Gardens receives nearly $480,000 a year in Measure R funding, after generating $1.5 million a year in sales tax revenue.

Vernon has not taken a formal position on Measure M but is one of the 23 cities that make up the Gateway Cities Council of Government, which is spearheading a campaign to “educate” voters on Measure M’s impact in their cities.

The Vernon City Council did, however, pass a resolution in May urging the Metro Board to adjust it’s formula for allocating funding.

Like Commerce, Vernon is impacted by heavy truck traffic traveling to and from its hundreds of warehouses and manufacturing plants that also bring as many as 50,000 workers a day to the city.

With 47-miles of street to maintain, Vernon is facing over $18 million in street repair costs over the next five years, according to city documents. Without transportation funding, the city must fund the projects using money from its general fund.

Yes on Measure M campaign spokesman Yusseff Robb says language in the measure allows the Metro Board to interpret the population based formula in a manner that includes daytime population.

“It’s not a promise but the law,” Robb told EGP. “After Measure M is passed, exact local return allocations will be determined in partnership with each of the Gateway cities to ensure that everyone gets a fair share that reflects the reality in their communities.”

He told EGP that the benefits from Measure M go beyond local return allocations, including better transit and freeway traffic flow throughout the region and the creation of 465,000 new jobs.

Located along the I-5, SR-710 and heavy truck traffic, Commerce officials have repeatedly highlighted the city’s role as one of the country’s busiest “dry ports,” a point it has been making at a number of city sponsored town hall meetings on Measure M and in information distributed to educate city residents

A return of $150,000 would just cover a basic oil application on three to four blocks, says Rifa, explaining the poor condition of roads in industrial cities are due to heavy truck traffic.

“We are a trucking intensive city…trucks are what damage roads,” Rifa said. “We simply cannot keep up.”

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Chairperson Eric Garcetti attended a Commerce City Council meeting earlier this month hoping to change the council’s opposition to Measure M or at least get them to remain neutral. He told the council he had heard their concerns about the local return formula, and promised to look into ways to address the burden caused by the influx of large numbers of workers in the city during the day.

Rifa suggests the local return formula should not be based on population but rather the number of street miles in each city, which in Commerce’s case totals 65.5 miles.

“We are looking for fairness and equality,” said Rifa. “Our streets require significant street repair to provide for the transportation needs for our community and the region.”

Fed Grant to Fund CNG Buses for Gateway Cities

October 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Metro announced Tuesday that a $10.5 million federal grant will help the transit agency buy 30 low-emission compressed natural gas buses for routes that run in the southern portion of Los Angeles County.

The buses will be used in the South Bay area and “gateway” cities, such as Bellflower, Artesia, Paramount and Commerce, Metro officials said.

The newer CNG buses are estimated to create 25 percent fewer emissions than the 2014 model CNG buses now owned by Metro.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will be matched by Metro for a total of $21 million. The full amount will go toward refueling stations, worker training programs and the purchase of CNG buses for the 125, 128, 130, 205, 232, 607 and 626 lines, officials said.

Metro officials are currently in the middle of buying the buses and plan to put them into use by next year.

Southeast LA Deserves Its Fair Share of Measure M Funding

October 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I was raised in Southeast LA County, in the shadow of the 710 freeway, a community suffocated by rail yards and freeways. It is a region identified by the U.S. federal air quality standards as one of the worst in the nation. Unfortunately, Southeast cities are often left out of critical county decisions that will impact our region’s quality of life for decades to come. This is true when it comes to air quality, community health and transportation funding.

On November 8, voters will be asked to approve the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, otherwise known as Measure M, which would enact a ½ cent sales tax increase that will generate approximately $860 million a year for transportation infrastructure improvements throughout LA County. While Measure M addresses much needed transportation challenges, we must ensure that the needs of the gateway corridor are considered, and that our residents have a seat at the decision making table.

Indeed, the transit network in the county is in poor health and has challenging and complex needs. Our dated roads and freeways weren’t made to withstand our ballooning population which now tops 10.2 million, resulting in congested commutes that average 81 hours a year for Angelenos.

Unfortunately, the planning process headed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has rendered the cities in Southeast Los Angeles County largely irrelevant. For example, proposals in Measure M would delay long overdue rehabilitation projects on the 5, 605 and 710 freeways up to forty years. Alternatively, projects on the Westside and in the Valley would be placed ahead of the queue. This is unacceptable and in order to win Southeast support, county leaders must address this inequity in a meaningful way.

In a show of solidarity, Southeast leaders have successfully fought for our fair share of Measure M funding. Our cities, stretching from Vernon to Long Beach, have been steadfast and unified in our advocacy for the region.

Our collective efforts got the attention of the MTA and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who have expressed goodwill toward working collaboratively moving forward. I take these leaders at their word and will work with members of the community to ensure projects in our region are prioritized should Measure M be approved.

MTA has committed to accelerate development of the Eco-Rapid/West Santa Ana Branch transit line, a 20-mile light rail project that provides our constituents safe, reliable transportation to Union Station in Downtown LA. In a show of good faith, MTA agreed to prioritize state and federal funding that will get southeast transportation projects shovel ready.

The mounting pressure has also pushed MTA to include several Long Beach projects such the rehabilitation of the Shoemaker Bridge, the Wardlow Station, as well as expanding resources to address public safety concerns at certain public transit stations, to be prioritized and receive vital funding from Measure M.

I commend our gateway cities for standing up for our working families and highlighting the discrepancies within current MTA funding formulas that disadvantage our neighborhoods. I encourage the MTA, Mayor Garcetti and our regional leaders to continue to work together on behalf of some of our most vulnerable residents.

With Measure M, we have an opportunity to fix and repair our aging transit infrastructure, which undoubtedly improves the quality of life and public health for the millions of residents living in 27 cities across Southeast Los Angeles County. But we must do so in a fair and inclusive manner so that all LA County residents benefit.

I support Measure M because of this unique opportunity. And like many of my residents, I do so with the understanding that our community will get its fair share. I look forward to working with the MTA, Mayor Garcetti, Southeast leaders and other decision-makers to ensure that this is the case.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) represents California’s 33rd Senate District.

Digging Way to Seamless Rail Rides

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A boring machine dubbed “Angeli” began its underground journey Wednesday to create tunnels for Metro’s regional connector project, which will link up the Blue, Expo and Gold lines in downtown Los Angeles when completed.

Metro board members, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, were on hand for a ceremonial lowering of the boring machine, which was officially named Angeli, the Latin name for angels.

Will Rogers Middle School eighth-grader Windsor McInerny came up with the winning submission in a naming contest.

“Building out a 21st century transportation system means creating links so that people can get around L.A. County with ease,” Garcetti said. “As ‘Angeli’ digs through the heart of Downtown, she is creating seamless connections for Angelenos from Azusa to Santa Monica.”

Garcetti added that Angelenos will benefit from even more connections soon after another boring machine named “Harriet Tubman” completes digging work on the Crenshaw/LAX line, which will connect stations in Crenshaw and Inglewood to the Green and Expo lines.

The $1.55 million regional connector project is scheduled to be completed in 2021, with Metro officials estimating it could shave off 20 minutes in traveling time for passengers.

The full length of the line including above-ground portions will run a total of 1.9 miles, and include three new stations.

Metro board Chair John Fasana, who is a Duarte city councilman, called the start of tunneling “a major milestone toward the completion of a vital project that truly connects the region by providing a one-seat ride to downtown Los Angeles for users of the Blue, Gold and Expo lines.

“The Regional Connector will reduce travel times for many Metro rail riders and make our system much more convenient and attractive to those who want a transit alternative to driving,” he said.

 

L.A. Mayor Asks Commerce Council to Support Measure M

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to garner support for a November ballot transit measure, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made a trip to Commerce City Hall Tuesday to ask the city council to drop its opposition to Measure M, which if approved by voters will authorize a permanent one-cent increase in the sales tax to fund transportation project.

“I’m here to ask for your support,” Garcetti told the council in what turned out to be a one-way dialogue with Garcetti doing all the talking.

Commerce is among a group of East and Southeast area cities opposed to the passage of Measures M on grounds that their constituents will be paying in to the fund for decades before any of their transportation woes are addressed.

The tax hike would generate at least $860 million annually for highway and street repairs, new rail and bus lines and transportation improvements.

Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the Commerce City Council Tuesday during a presentation on Measure M.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the Commerce City Council Tuesday during a presentation on Measure M. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Proponents of the transit tax claim it will help solve the region’s traffic congestion problems, improve air quality and create jobs.

Cities opposing the tax hike are unhappy that improvements to transit projects in their region, such as the 1-5 and 710 freeways, will be delayed under Measure M. They claim the distribution of projects favor the western and northern parts of the County.

Garcetti pointed out projects in some parts of Los Angeles will also not see funding for 30 years.

Surprisingly, council members did not use the opportunity to reiterate their opposition to the Measure, or to get the visiting mayor and Metro chair to agree to work with the city on transportation issues in the future.

In August, the 23 cities that makeup the Gateway Cities Council of Government, including Commerce, spearheaded an educational outreach campaign to specifically inform voters what Measure M’s impacts would or would not have. That same month, Commerce and a handful of cities unsuccessfully filed a lawsuit claiming Measure M was misleading when it failed to state the proposed tax would be permanent.

“We’re friends no matter what, before or after,” Garcetti assured Commerce council members.

“I urge you to support Measure M, if not, can you stay neutral?”

Garcetti acknowledged that the city of Commerce, home to 13,000 residents but a daytime working population of 80,000, did have a good argument when they questioned what the return would be to their city.

“But if nothing passes it will be more than 30 years” before transportation issues in the region are addressed, Garcetti told EGP following his presentation.

Currently, Commerce generates about $8 million a year in Measure R sales tax revenue for the county, but annually only gets back about $150,000. The city’s contribution would double to $16 million under Measure M, but it would only receive around $300,000 a year based on its population.

Commerce previously supported Measure R, a temporary half-cent tax that will sunset in 2039 unless it is made permanent under Measure M, which adds an additional half-cent to the sales tax. A two-third margin is required for Measure M to pass. In 2012, a similar ballot measure failed to pass by less than 1 percent.

“We all know it takes a few to defeat this, why not come together to solve our traffic woes,” Garcetti told council members, who did not respond to his statement, instead voting to just receive and file his presentation without action.

 

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