Los Angeles Metro recently broke ground on the Metro Orange Line Improvements Project, a $320- to $393-million transit project that will prepare the Orange Line bus rapid transit line in the San Fernando Valley for a future conversion to light rail, as well as improve bus speeds and safety.

The agency on October 13 began preliminary engineering and has begun taking soil samples near the Sepulveda busway intersection in Van Nuys. The soil samples are part of site investigation work that will better characterize underground soil and ground conditions where the structural supports for aerial bridges are planned to physically separate buses from street traffic below.

The soil work is being led by the Los Angeles office of Mott Macdonald, along with Metro subcontractors Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc., and Earth Mechanics, Inc.

Project highlights include two new aerial bridges and stations as well as bike and pedestrian path grade separations at Van Nuys and Sepulveda Boulevards – two of the line’s busiest crossings. Metro will also build four-quadrant crossing gates at up to 35 intersections between North Hollywood and Chatsworth. Other project improvements will see better traffic signal priority technology for buses to improve travel times along the 18-mile corridor.

Metro is currently looking at design-build as one of its project delivery options, and will make a final decision near the completion of preliminary engineering, says Dave Sotero, Metro
communications manager

The improvements are being funded by Measure M, with about $75 million of the project cost coming from SB-1, the state’s gas tax and vehicle fee transportation funding program that was approved by the Legislature and signed into law in 2017.

Slated to be complete by 2025, the transit project is on Metro’s Twenty-Eight by ‘28 list of transportation improvements scheduled for completion before the arrival of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028. Metro’s idea is to use the Olympics as a milepost to “finish projects that would serve the public well before, during and after the games,” said the Metro Board.

Seventeen of the projects on the list are already scheduled to be complete by 2028, eight have schedules that are “aspirational” and three would need new resources. This means funds would need to be accelerated or found for 11 of the projects. But Metro hopes that if they have a definite plan for the projects funding will be easier to obtain.

The 17 projects due to be completed by 2028 includes major jobs such as the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Regional Connector a nd Purple Line Extension. Also on the list are three bus rapid transit (BRT) projects, the Gold Line to Claremont, ExpressLanes on the 405 Freeway and the Orange Line Improvements.

Metro says it will coordinate the Orange Line Improvements Project’s future connections in the Van Nuys area with other planned transit projects, including the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project. Other planned transit projects in the region include the North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit Project, the North Hollywood to Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project and the 2020 electrification of all buses on the Orange Line.

Project officials say the Orange Line will be converted to light rail by 2057 unless it can be delivered sooner via a Metro public-private partnership.