The East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project received a significant boost this week as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced its intention to obligate nearly $1 billion in funds for the first phase of the project.

When completed, the project’s 9.2 mile route will connect the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) G Line (Orange) Station in Van Nuys with the Metrolink Station in Sylmar/San Fernando. A total of 14 new stations are planned.

"The eastern San Fernando Valley Corridor is one of the busiest transit corridors in the nation," said U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg in a statement. "This announcement is a big step toward creating more transit options, a better commute, and cleaner air for residents in the San Fernando Valley and all of Los Angeles."

The project’s first phase, estimated to cost between $1.6 billion and $2 billion, will consist of 6.7 miles of rail primarily on Van Nuys Boulevard, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the Valley. This phase will include 11 new transit stations and Traction Power Substations and a new Maintenance & Storage Facility (MSF). A one-way trip for this first segment is expected to take approximately 31 minutes.

Metro has completed most of the advanced design for the project and anticipates starting pre-construction utility relocation later this year, followed by major construction.

On May 9, the FTA issued a “Letter of Intent" to Metro that lays out several conditions the agency must meet within the next two years to allow the project to be considered for a Full Funding Grant Agreement. The grant could potentially provide up to $908.75 million through the FTA’s Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) Pilot Program.

The project is the second to be considered part of the EPD program. The first is the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s BART Silicon Valley Extension Program.

The EPD program, part of the larger Capital Investment Grant program, seeks to accelerate delivery of fixed guideway transportation projects across the nation with the understanding that federal funding will not exceed 25% of eligible project costs.

Additional local funding sources come from the Measure R and M voter-approved transportation sales taxes as well as SB-1 gas tax funds. Construction of Phase 1 could begin later this year, according to Metro.

The East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project, scheduled to open in 2028, is designed to offer stops at street-level, something that has not been seen in the area since the last Pacific Electric Red Cars discontinued service along portions of Van Nuys Boulevard in 1952.

The project will add more rail service in the heart of the San Fernando Valley and connect important transit services and destinations, including Van Nuys Civic Center, Van Nuys Amtrak/Metrolink Station, Panorama Mall, Van Nuys multi-residential housing, Arleta High School, downtown San Fernando and others.

The program will extend transit options into the San Fernando Valley, which local officials say, has sorely needed them. When LA voters approved Measure M in 2016 – a half-cent sales tax measure to fund transportation projects – Metro had 100 rail transit stations in Los Angeles County. The San Fernando Valley, with a population of more than 2 million people, had only two.

“The FTA’s Letter of Intent to provide federal funding is a key step forward for one of the most important transit priorities in the Valley,” said Los Angeles city council member and Metro board member Paul Krekorian in a news release. “The East San Fernando Valley line will not only be a critical backbone of mobility, it will also generate affordable housing development and create thousands of good jobs.”

The Metro board approved a Progressive Design-Build (PDB) delivery method in October 2021. Gannett Fleming Inc., Metro’s consultant, is performing utility investigation work, including potholing and trenching along major project streets, ahead of construction. According to Metro, real estate activities are anticipated to begin this summer and fall.

A supplemental study will be conducted for a second, 2.5-mile shared right-of-way segment from San Fernando Road/Van Nuys Boulevard to Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station. Metro has yet to determine a price for this segment.