LA TRANSPO - As a Los Angeles transit rider since 1993, the addition of a major construction project for the Sepulveda Pass by Metro is greatly supported.
However, the process for this project has turned very curious. Searches for information on one of the construction companies has been very opaque.
I ride transit to reduce my carbon footprint. And after decades of riding buses and trains, it is many times preferable to driving in Los Angeles’ gridlocked and stressful driving.
I have no financial or other stake in either company referenced below. I am just a citizen urging for more mass transit in Los Angeles County, looking more transparency in Metro projects, and worried that taxpayer monies for this project may not be wisely spent.
From Metro, The Source:
“Metro is beginning the environmental review phase for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project, which will build a heavy rail line or monorail between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. A second phase will eventually be built to LAX.” LINK
This project is critical to improving traffic in Los Angeles, in fighting air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin, and reducing carbon gases which are warming the planet. Global warming is here now, and the estimates of its speed in warming are not only being met, they are exceeded at a frightening pace.
Action is needed now to take cars and trucks off the roads to reduce carbon gases.
A 2019 study from Yale University LINK places transportation as 29% responsible for global warming carbon gasses. Add to that the polluting carbon gasses from oil refining in the Los Angeles Basin, and the figure goes to 40%.
It is not getting better. We are driving more. If we continue at this pace the warming of the planet will increase to greater and greater peril to us all.
Action to reduce our carbon footprint is needed now by taking vehicles off the road on to buses and trains.
Yet the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project is too slowly creeping along with its studies to then transition on to construction.
Instead of going with what is used overwhelmingly throughout the world for transits projects of this size and scope, heavy rail trains above or underground, Metro has allowed monorail as a late comer into the project, and for reasons unknown, shoehorned it into the scoping process with little information on why or who is behind this push.
For the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project there are two teams:
LA SkyRail Express, which is proposing monorail
Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners, which is proposing heavy rail subway
That LA SkyRail Express is still in the running is a mystery. Internet searches peeled away some of the layers of this opaque process, and led to more questions.
In searching for information on the monorail company the first page, top listing is for LA SkyRail Express is this: LINK.
The first page, top listing search for Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners is this: LINK
Some quick comparisons:
LA SkyRail Express website does not give direct contact information, nor even and address. Why would a company bidding for a contract listed by Metro as over $9Billion not list an address on its website?
The OpenCorporations.com website lists an address for LA SkyRail Express(Monorail) and additional information, including incorporation date:
Company Number 202110310912
Incorporation Date 30 March 2021 (about 1 year ago)
Jurisdiction California (US)
Branch Branch of Delaware (US) company
725 S FIGUEROA ST STE 4025 LOS ANGELES 90017
When searching for information on Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners, searches lead directly to Bechtel. It is immediately, clearly, and openly known that Bechtel, a giant in major construction, is behind this team.
On Bechtel’s separate webpage for the project there is a link to their home page, LINK, which easily navigates to their home page with address and contact information.
Curiosity about the monorail company’s newly incorporated status led to information on Bechtel (Heavy Rail Subway.) From the Bechtel website: “Since 1898, we have helped customers complete more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents.”
Still not satisfied about the Monorail company, an internet search was done on their address in DTLA. This led to LINK.
On the Monorail company website there is not a photo of a monorail, but a rail station with two trains on rails, not monorail.
From their website: “John Laing is a leading international investor and manager of PPP projects and low-risk, Mid-market infrastructure businesses across a range of sectors”
It is very important to take their own for words for who they are, a “Mid-market infrastructure” business.
Metro’s Sepulveda Transit Corridor project at potentially at or over $9Billion is a heavy infrastructure market project.
For the Monorail company, to find their projects history, a search led to LINK. No monorail project is listed. There are two rail trains, and one boring (tunneling) project.
Also from a John Laing website: “Investment Portfolio
Since making our first infrastructure investment in 1969, John Laing has invested in over 150 projects projects and businesses to date, across a range of sectors, including transport, social infrastructure, energy transition, accommodation and digital infrastructure.”
From the Bechtel website on their projects: LINK These are current projects and do not reflect the company’s history from 1898.
The Monorail company’s website:
“Q: How much would LASRE‘s proposed Alternatives cost?
A: At this time, the preliminary Capital Cost estimate to implement Alternate 1 is $6.1 Billion, and is well within Metro’s budget for Measure M.
And on their website: “John Laing’s regional leadership is based in Los Angeles with an office in downtown Los Angeles.”; No other major American city has a monorail as a substantial transit system, and indeed while monorail is nearly as old .”
With no other major American city with a monorail, why should Los Angeles be the guinea pig? We should not be the testing grounds in the major infrastructure project from a company which lists itself as mid-market.
Why introduce a foreign transit system, monorail, into the current Metro transit network of two rail light rail and heavy rail?
Indeed, it is telling that with monorail nearly as old as two rail, as the John Laing website states, there is no major monorail in Los Angeles. Countries throughout the world with far more extensive rail systems and networks have chosen for over a century to use two rail trains and not monorail. This must be heeded by Metro as a historical fact which should raise concerns about the feasibility of a monorail for this critically important, major infrastructure project.
The Monorail company also has a project Alternative using subway. They give no cost for that Alternative which would increase costs for boring through the Sepulveda Pass of the Santa Monica Mountains. Their tunneling costs could equal those of the Subway company, and could exceed it because the single rail for monorails is wider than two rail trains, and some estimate this would require a larger tunnel, and in construction, larger means more expensive.
It may be assumed the Monorail company is only interested in above ground monorail. In earthquake prone Los Angeles, why is this a good idea? In earthquakes anything above ground is potential fodder for the destruction from earthquakes.
On the contrary, subways throughout the world have withstood the destructions of earthquakes, and indeed have been back running and in service a few days after the temblor when above ground infrastructure was damaged, sometimes critically, and inoperable.
The artist’s rendering of a monorail in the 405 median leads to questions on construction and how it would impact the freeway. Would lanes be closed for the heavy equipment needed for the monorail? If so, would the closures take place a night when traffic is less but labor costs higher?
Would freeway lanes be closed when maintenance, planned and unplanned, is required for the monorail?
The monorail company states that should a train become disabled another train could push or pull it along the rail. But what happens when the disabled train cannot be moved? Would 405 freeway lanes need to be closed to take a disabled train off the rail?
Then there is the visual blight of the heavy support columns and thick monorail.
A subway would obviously operate underground without the need to close lanes on the 405 for maintenance, planned or unplanned.
The Sepulveda Transit Corridor project is moving slower than the gridlocked 405 Freeway for which a subway would be the most logical, most transparent, and most historically proven alternative.
(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and President and Executive Director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra.)