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5 New Rapid Bus Corridors for Valley OKd

The north-south routes will link riders to other major transit lines, including the subway.

May 23, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board Thursday approved five new north-south rapid bus corridors for the San Fernando Valley that will connect riders to other major transit lines, such as the Red Line subway.

On rapid bus routes, coaches make fewer stops and are equipped with transponders that can help traffic lights remain green longer.

The corridors, chosen by MTA planners after a series of community meetings, are spread across the Valley from Canoga Park and Woodland Hills in the west to Pacoima and North Hollywood in the east.

All five lines, which include service along an old Canoga Avenue rail corridor as well as down Reseda, Sepulveda and Van Nuys boulevards, will connect with the new Valley Metro Rapidway, an east-west dedicated bus corridor just north of the Ventura Freeway scheduled to open in 2005.

A fifth route, on San Fernando Road and Lankershim Boulevard, will link to the North Hollywood and Universal City subway stations.

The routes are necessary, MTA planners said, to serve the region's future transportation needs.

Home to about 1.3 million residents, the Valley is expected to grow by more than 30%, to 1.7 million people, by 2025, according to the transit corridors report submitted Thursday to the board.

The plan was praised by some members of the MTA's Valley bus council who have been critical of other efforts by the agency in the past.

MTA planners "were pretty creative about the mix and match of what we got," said Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Sylmar.

"The corridors identified are the right ones," said Kymberleigh Richards, president of Southern California Transit Advocates. "The key question is, are we going to get enough money to do this?"

Although $100 million in state funds had been allocated for the north-south projects, that money is no longer available because of the budget crisis.

Still, the MTA plans to open the corridors incrementally, starting with $20 million in local funding during the next six years, and completing the network as more money becomes available.

The first phase, at a cost of about $11.2 million, will establish rapid bus lines on Reseda and Sepulveda boulevards.

The second phase, with a price tag of about $18 million, will include rush-hour-only bus lanes on Sepulveda and Lankershim boulevards, a bus-only lane near the Parthenia Street intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and expansion of the parking lot at the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station.

The third phase, expected to cost $43.3 million, will include landscaping, sidewalk improvements and the addition of street lighting to make the Reseda, Sepulveda and Lankershim routes more inviting for pedestrians.

The centerpiece of the fourth phase, at $64.4 million to $74.5 million, is construction of a dedicated busway in the old Canoga Avenue rail corridor.

Coby King, chairman of the Valley's bus council, said he would prefer a rail line instead of a busway in the Canoga corridor, which will feed into the Warner Center transit hub, and wished the project had a higher priority.

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