North County Transportation Coalition receive update on Antelope Valley Line study

FILE PHOTO. Metrolink train.
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Efforts to improve service with a study of the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line is near a conclusion after nearly two years of outreach, officials said Monday.

The North Los Angeles County Transportation Coalition (NCTC) held its board meeting in Santa Clarita to hear about a series of items affecting transportation in and around the Santa Clarita Valley, which included the Antelope Valley Line.

The NCTC board, on which Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean serves as vice chair, heard from Metro/Metrolink staff three different scenarios that are part of the study to upgrade service to a “clock-based” schedule for better service.

The 76.6-mile long AV line has the third-highest ridership in Metro’s system with about 7,000 passengers daily. Due to the mountainous terrain in the northern portion of the route, the average speed is approximately 40 mph, an estimated travel time of about two hours between Los Angeles Union Station and Lancaster. The route uses up to 42 trains per day.       

To improve operations, the study aims to analyze “increasing the frequency of the Metrolink services and develop a phased and prioritized approach for infrastructure improvements to support the level of services based on benefits, costs and impacts,” according to the staff report.

The three out of six scenarios NCTC stakeholders advised to move forward with are: one additional late evening train; two additional off-peak, round trips to provide hourly mid-day service; and improved peak service and semi-hourly, off-peak service. These would require four capital projects, said Jeanet Owens with Metro, which includes sliding extensions, double tracking some segments of the route and improvements to the Lancaster terminal.

“We’re basically moving forward with analyzing hourly bi-directional service on the Metrolink, as well as a 30-minute bi-directional service,” said Owens.

The analysis in the report calculated that these capital projects would cost $175.1 million. Brian Balderrama with Metro presented to board members a funding breakdown, showing that local funding would leverage federal and state capital funds for the projects.

The first portion of projects would be $41.8 million in Measure M funds, the 2016 sales tax increase for transportation projects. The second phase, at a $133.4 million total, would come from federal dollars (up to 61 percent) and the state (nearly 30 percent). If funded, the first phase of projects would be completed by 2025 and phase two by 2030, said Balderrama.

The study also looked at applied technology, such as clean vehicle technology and tilting train capability to handle curves for speeds up to 100 mph.  

Before finalizing the draft study, Metro is collecting surveys from the public for feedback on how to add more rail service. The survey closes Friday, April 26, and can be accessed at metro.net/avlstudy.

In July, Metro plans to present the final AVL study to the Metro board, Balderrama said.

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