Metro approves $317-million busway connecting San Gabriel, San Fernando valleys

A controversial 19-mile bus corridor connecting the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys got the go-ahead Thursday.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved plans to move forward with the $317-million project, hailed by transit advocates as a step toward desperately needed speedier and more efficient bus service.

The route will go from the North Hollywood subway station to Pasadena City College, largely paralleling the 134 Freeway and snaking through Eagle Rock, Burbank and Glendale. The 22-station line will cut bus travel times along the route nearly in half. Running along surface streets, the line will also take out some car lanes on parts of the route.

“These are long overdue improvements,” said Jessica Meaney, executive director of Investing in Place, a transportation advocacy group. “We have 33 miles of bus-only lanes in the city of Los Angeles right now. That’s ridiculous given the scale of size of the city and the needs.”

The move angered many in communities like Eagle Rock, where parts of Colorado Boulevard will be reconfigured to a single car lane and bus lane in each direction.

“This will hurt the community immensely,” said Michael Nogueira, who lives two blocks from one of the stops. “They are jamming this down our throat.”

The project is one of several funded by Measure M. The 2016 half-cent sales tax approved by voters gave Metro $120 billion over several decades to expand transit across the region. Bus rapid transit projects like this are generally cheaper and faster to build than subway or light rail.

Planning for the project began years before. Metro is considering several more bus corridors.

“We have a whole bunch that will be following, and we think it’s important to get this one right,” James Luis de la Loza, chief planning officer at Metro, told the board.

Many neighbors oppose the loss of street parking and some of the outdoor dining space that developed during the pandemic.

Nogueira, the president of the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, said he knows a couple who have threatened to close their two restaurants if this moves forward. Shutting off a lane, he said, will cause major backup and not make streets safer.

“It’s going to remove a good portion of our parking, and all the traffic will go into the residential areas,” Nogueira said.

More than 1,500 businesses and residents have signed petitions opposing the project, he said.

“This is going to impact neighborhoods. They’re going to be used as thoroughfares,” Nogueira said. “Why don’t they do what Pasadena is doing?”

Metro has said it will look at some of the issues raised as it moves on to the next design phase.

But others call the plan, which is still being tweaked, a major improvement, providing safer streets and an alternative to exhaust-spewing vehicles.

“I am ecstatic,” said Michael MacDonald, a resident of Eagle Rock who helped form the Beautiful Boulevard Coalition. The group developed after bitter arguments erupted in Eagle Rock, where the line runs along more than a mile of Colorado Boulevard.

“We don’t have easy access to transit now,” MacDonald said. “It’s exciting to have a new line that will provide us quick access to our neighboring cities. It opens new opportunity to get around and not paying for parking or worry about traffic.”

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