The Works

New Starts: Federal Money for LA Rail, Later-Night Philly Subways, Freight Drama in Mexico

The feds have signed off on half the cost of L.A.‘s downtown light rail tunnel, and SEPTA considers keeping the El and Broad Street Line open until 3 a.m. on weekends.

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Our weekly roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects around the world.

Los Angeles Gets Federal Money for Light Rail (and Maybe a Subway)

Until now, Los Angeles’ light rail network has been somewhat disjointed. It’s easy reach downtown from East L.A. or Pasadena (take the Gold Line), the Westside (Expo Line) and Long Beach (Blue Line). But each of these routes leave you on opposite sides of downtown — the Gold Line at Union Station on the east side, and the Expo and Blue lines at the Financial District to the west. To traverse the core, you need to hop on the Red/Purple subway to make the connection.

Not, however, for much longer. The Regional Connector project will fuse together the three lines with a 1.9-mile downtown subway segment. New tracks between the termini will allow for proper through-running, facilitating a one-seat ride between Santa Monica and East L.A., on the far sides of the Expo and Gold lines, respectively, and between Long Beach on the Blue Line and Pasadena on the other end of the Gold Line. The Federal Transit Administration just signed off on a $670 million grant for the $1.36 billion Regional Connector. All told, federal loans and grants will cover 60 percent of the cost, with the remainder covered by Measure R dough.

And buried at the end of this Los Angeles Times write-up is another bit of good news for L.A. transit riders: Mayor Eric Garcetti says he’s getting “good unofficial feedback” on the county’s application for $1.25 billion in federal funds for the Purple Line subway extension to Westwood. While the Purple Line wasn’t originally planned to reach the V.A. hospital at Westwood until 2035, this funding could allow Metro to complete the project 10 years earlier, with the full extension opening within a decade from now. The Regional Connector and the Purple Line extension will go a long way to opening up L.A.‘s affluent, job-rich Westside to commuters from across the region.

Philadelphians May Be Able to Party Until 3 a.m.

First Boston and London, now Philadelphia: SEPTA has announced that it is considering restoring weekend late night service to two of the city’s three rapid transit lines. (The third, the PATCO line to South Jersey, has always run 24 hours a day.) Under the potential plan, the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines would run until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights — or Saturday and Sunday mornings, more accurately — by this summer. We’ll know for sure if the agency will restore the service — cut in the early 1990s “because of security and cost concerns,” according to the Inquirer — next month when it release its budget.

Siemens Hands Out Free Trains for Delayed Orders

If your train order is delayed in the U.S., tough luck: Uou may, if you’re lucky, get some of the penalties you were supposed to. But in Europe, when Siemens is late on an order, you get extra trains. Germany’s Deutsche Bahn had to delay its Frankfurt-London high-speed service after its €500 million order for 16 Siemens ICE trains was delayed, focusing in the meantime on Brussels and Paris. Siemens will give DB an extra ICE 3 train for free, plus some other goodies, as penalty for the delays. (That’s also how Swiss Federal Railways ended up with 61 double-decker trainsets from Siemens for its Zurich S-Bahn.)

Open Access Has Mexican Railroads Considering Lawsuits

Shares of Kansas City Southern fell this week as the railroad, which alongside subsidiaries of Grupo Mexico has a lock on the Mexican freight rail market, tumbled this month on the serious possibility of the Mexican legislature forcing the duopoly to allow other freight rail operators access to its tracks. Kansas City Southern and Grupo Mexico’s railroads, Ferromex and Ferrosur, say that the law would impinge on the 14 years left in their concessions. Between the long-term concessions and a possible open access law, Mexico is edging toward Europe, where the European Union asks public operators to allow private operators on their tracks, and away from the U.S., where private freight railroads enter into solely voluntary agreements with each other over trackage rights.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Stephen J. Smith is a reporter based in New York. He has written about transportation, infrastructure and real estate for a variety of publications including New York Yimby, where he is currently an editor, Next City, City Lab and the New York Observer.

Tags: philadelphiainfrastructurepublic transportationlos angelestransit agencieslight railthe workssubwaysmexico cityeric garcetti

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