Year 1 – 3: The first three years would focus on creating the necessary construction authorities, developing standardized designs, training Angelinos to build the system through a jobs program, beginning construction on the projects that are ready to go and completing studies of the first phase extensions, which most effectively could be used to leverage federal and state funding.
Year 4 - 13: The ensuing ten years each of the projects would be in the Environmental Impact Report/Study, design, bid or build stage. The entire county would be involved throughout the process.
The responsibility of constructing the rail lines would be divided among five Joint Powers Authorities primarily based on existing Metro Planning District/Sector boundaries and they all would be required to complete the projects within their borders by the 13 year deadline. The JPAs would be composed of the area’s local political representatives and/or appointees, and mathematically they each would have a very manageable goal of constructing less than 7 miles of rail per year. After completing construction of a line or a segment of the line the Joint Power Authority would turn responsibility of operating it over to Metro. (The Gold Line was built by a J.P.A. and the Expo Line is currently being built by a J.P.A.)
A dedicated funding source and an aggressive construction schedule featuring projects simultaneously being constructed in multiple regions will eliminate several major obstacles to current rail expansion efforts in the southland, primarily competition. By lacking a sufficiently sized revenue stream, projects take significantly longer to complete and thereby cost significantly more to complete than if the capital were available at the start of construction. This fact forces term-limited local politicians and the citizens who vote for them to fight with other worthy rail projects for higher funding priority. While this strategic war takes place, other parts of the county accurately assume they will likely move or die by the time the rail system adequately serves them, giving them little incentive to become involved in the process, losing powerful possible stakeholders.
With an aggressive construction schedule to build a countywide rail system financed by a large dedicated funding source, we will have the confidence our tax dollars are being spent on an accessible rail system. Additionally, our coalition of supporters will be widespread and exponentially stronger than if we attempted to push individual pet projects in competition with others.
Metro Transit Policy states that any rail line that is projected to have over 50,000 daily boardings should be constructed completely grade-separated (not cross car or pedestrian traffic). In a system with this many connections and with stations in this many areas with high population and job density it is logical to assume that likely all of the urban rail lines would serve this many passengers.
For many alignments the only way of grade-separating the lines without completely cutting our streets in half is with elevated structures or subways. The skyrocketing cost of elevated rail, coupled with the monumental improvements in tunneling and surface monitoring technology has made subways far more cost competitive than in the past.
The benefit of tunneling is design consistency, which again should save cost, and the limited environmental impact during construction and operation, which makes it more community preferred. By having construction work primarily underground, construction teams could work longer hours and surface level disruption would be a fraction of street-level or elevated rail.
Tunnel boring machines (TBM) are typically used to excavate tunnels in first world countries, and several monumental advances in the technology have occurred in the 21st century. With the smooth and successful completion of the tunnel portion of the Eastside Gold line extension project, Metro has taken note. The massive subway projects in European and Asian countries with similarly high environmental and safety standards are proving that tunneling is safer, faster and cheaper. In Spain, large TBMs are being used to safely excavate tunnels wide enough for two to four tracks, providing substantial costs savings over twin bore tunneling, where a smaller tunnel is excavated for each track.
The 13-year deadline to excavate the 284 miles of tunnel* can be met by purchasing and simultaneously operating as many TBMs as necessary, likely 10-13 TBMs.
* The majority of the remaining miles of track are grade-separated but would not require tunneling.
The bulk of the cost in tunneling is attributed to the stations, which are typically built using a cut-and-cover method. Significant cost savings can be found by standardizing station design, but even more can be found by constructing open-cut stations where space allows, such as on an abandoned ROW, an especially wide median or the shoulder of a freeway.