Blog

Forward Motion, May 2020

 

Mobility 21 Advisory Board Member Spotlight:
Mark Baza
Executive Director
Imperial County Transportation Commission

In May 2010, Mark Baza was appointed as the Executive Director of the Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC). ICTC is the Regional Transportation Planning and Transit Agency for Imperial County. ICTC recently celebrated its 7th anniversary as it was established as a County Transportation Commission in 2009 under Senate Bill 607 (Ducheny) and became a new agency effective Jan. 1, 2010. Under the direction of the Commission, Mark led the development of the new agency’s organizational structure, staffing and work programs. ICTC is one of six County Transportation Commissions within the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region. SCAG is the federally mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the six counties and as is recognized as the largest MPO in the United States.

As the regional transportation planning agency for Imperial, ICTC is responsible to plan and develop the regional transit and highway network in partnership with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), California Transportation Commission, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration and SCAG. Together, key regional transit and highway improvements have been completed and are underway. In 2018, ICTC and Caltrans received a $3 million grant from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) from Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) to carry out the Project Approval and Environmental Document for the Calexico East Port of Entry Bridge Expansion. ICTC received an additional $20 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) to complete the Design and Construction. The project is scheduled to complete environmental in May 2020 and subsequently initiate the Design-Build process in Fall 2020. Other milestones for ICTC in partnership with Caltrans is to begin construction in January 2020 to complete the Interstate 8 Imperial Avenue Interchange Reconstruction project, a $44 million State Transportation Improvement Program investment for Imperial County; and the State Route 98 Widening project (Ollie and Rockwood Ave.), a $10 million investment with a combination of State and Federal funds.

As the regional transit agency, ICTC plans and operates the Imperial Valley Transit which includes fixed route public transit services, paratransit services, and dial-a-ride services throughout the county. Since 2012, ICTC has purchased and now owns its fleet of over 60 transit vehicles. Other accomplishments include: increasing express route services; expanded hours of service on Saturdays; all new limited schedule of service on Sundays; planning and design of intra-city bus services in the cities of Brawley, Imperial and Calexico; completion of transit centers at Imperial Valley College, the cities of Brawley, El Centro, and most recently in the City of Imperial. A new Intermodal Transit Center (ITC) in the City of Calexico is in the environmental and design phase. The Calexico ITC proposes to serve public and private transit shuttle operators, Greyhound bus operations, farm labor buses, taxi and ride share service.

Additionally, ICTC administers the County’s “Measure D” half-cent sales tax program on behalf of the Imperial County Local Transportation Authority. As one of twenty-six “Self Help Counties” in California, ICTC distributes the lion’s share of the Measure D funds to each of the seven cities and County of Imperial to complete local road pavement rehabilitation projects; improve pedestrian and bicycle access; improve access as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and local road operational improvements. The Measure D program also provides local contributions to state highway and transit projects. In 2012 and 2018 ICTC efforts for the cities and the County of Imperial to bond against future sales tax revenues that allowed the agencies to accelerate many local road projects throughout the region.

Mark has nearly 30 years of experience in the transit/transportation planning and engineering industry. Prior to his position at ICTC, Mark began his career with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 11 for 21 years. In the Planning, Mark had lead responsibilities for public transportation, non-motorized and regional transportation planning and goods movement planning. Later served as Project Manager for a portfolio of planning and capital projects to improve goods movement in Southern California, and ground access to all of California’s six land ports of entry with Mexico, and the Port of San Diego’s seaport terminals in National City and San Diego’s Barrio Logan Community. Mark earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban & Rural Planning Studies from the University of California, San Diego and completed a post-graduate Certificate Program in Transportation Planning for Air Quality at the University of California, Riverside.


Mobility 21 Advisory Board Member Spotlight:
Brad Kuhn
Partner
Nossaman LLP

Brad Kuhn is a partner at the law firm Nossaman LLP, where he serves as the Chair of the firm’s Eminent Domain and Valuation Practice Group. Brad is a nationally recognized leader in advising on all real property aspects of infrastructure and development projects. He provides a unique ability to prevent or resolve complex real estate and infrastructure disputes through strategic planning and project implementation. He is passionate about improving the quality of life in Southern California through new and innovative transportation opportunities.

Brad is actively involved in California’s transportation industry. In addition to serving on the Advisory Board for Mobility 21, he also serves as General Counsel to the International Right of Way Association (IRWA), overseeing the 10,000+ member, world-wide premier organization for right-of-way acquisition. In 2019, Brad was awarded the CRE® designation by the Counselors of Real Estate®, an international group of real estate professionals recognized as leading advisors in complex real property matters with approximately 1,000 members worldwide, of which only about 50 are practicing attorneys.

Some of the infrastructure projects Brad has actively worked on include City of Los Angeles / Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Landside Access Modernization Project, LA Metro’s Purple Line Westside Subway Extension Project and LAX/Crenshaw Transit Corridor Project, the Exposition Light Rail Transit Project, SANDAG’s Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project, SBCTA’s sbX E-Street Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Project and Downtown Passenger Rail Project, and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority’s Gold Line Extension Project. He also has overseen numerous other transportation and utility transmission projects.

Brad’s accomplishments have been profiled in numerous publications, including recognition by the Recorder as a California Trailblazer, a designation given to only a “handful of attorneys that are truly agents of change” and have “made significant marks on the practice, policy and technological advancement of their practice.” Brad has also been named to the Daily Journal’s “Top 20 Under 40” list, a recognition given to the top 20 lawyers in California who are on the cutting edge of legal issues, and who are making an impact on changing an industry, region or society. He has been chosen for individual recognition by Chambers & Partners, the guide to the world’s best lawyers, and also recognized as the Top Rated Lawyer in Land Use and Zoning by the American Lawyer. Brad earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, and his juris doctorate from Chapman University School of Law. He lives in San Clemente with his wife Nicole, and their two sons, Preston (9) and Jack (7).


Summit Platinum Sponsor Spotlight
Skanska

Skanska is humbled to be selected to build some of Southern California’s most iconic legacy infrastructure projects. We are committed to proactively partnering with our customers, project stakeholders and community members to deliver innovative project solutions that improve the quality of life for everyone.

Skanska embraces diversity as a core value and we strive to excel as a global construction leader by advancing a culture of inclusion. By respecting people of diverse backgrounds and talents, we offer our employees an environment in which to thrive. We enrich our clients and communities through unique partnerships and extraordinary construction services. Our culture was recognized by being named one of Forbes’ 2019 Best Employers for Diversity and Global 2000 World’s Best Employers.

Skanska continues to be an industry driver in performing work safely, protecting our construction personnel and the travelling public. This industry-leading effort continues with our implementation of new practices to address pandemic concerns; recognized by owners, safety organizations, and our labor partners to allow construction efforts to continue as we maintain safe work environments. We are proud to be a part of the safety solution planning and implementation that has allowed transportation construction to maintain its “essential business” categorization.


Summit Platinum Sponsor Spotlight
Southern California Partnership for Jobs

Southern California Partnership for Jobs Looking to Help
Drive Economic Recovery Via Infrastructure Spending

The Southern California Partnership for Jobs (SCPFJ) consists of 2,750 contractors throughout Southern California that represent over 90,000 union workers. SCPFJ is dedicated to working with elected officials and educating the public in Southern California on the continued need for infrastructure funding including rail, water, ports, airports and roads while enhancing the regions’ workforce development and creating career construction jobs.

Southern California Partnership for Jobs has spent the shutdown working to keep Construction and Infrastructure projects “essential” based on Governor Newsom’s executive order. As we slowly lift the shelter in place orders, SCPFJ believes that Infrastructure spending is the fastest way to economic recovery.

There is a strong precedence for this course of action working. In 2000, California voted in Prop 39. This school bond measure lowered the requirement for a supermajority to allow for easier passage of these bonds. This allowed for increased school construction spending which led to an economic recovery.

SCPFJ believes that infrastructure spending will lead to a faster and more robust recovery as we move past this pandemic. This in turn will be good for all Southern Californians and get more people back to work faster. We look forward to moving towards that goal.


Metro to Require Use of Face Coverings
by Riders on
Metro Buses and Trains
Beginning Monday, May 11

Metro revised its policy on face coverings for riders. Beginning on Monday, May 11, Metro required all riders on buses and trains wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Up until then, Metro had been recommending face coverings.

The agency will enforce this requirement to the extent that is practical — and will be considering the best way to enforce this rule going forward. In addition, Metro will be looking at ways the agency can help riders obtain face coverings while protecting its own supply of coverings that are needed for employees. Metro will also commence an educational campaign to inform the public of the requirement to wear face coverings in public and on the system.

Some quick background to help explain the update in policy. In early April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amended its position on face coverings and began recommending face coverings as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

On April 6, Metro began strongly recommending that riders wear face coverings but haven’t made it a requirement because of concerns about who would enforce such a rule. We don’t want to put our bus operators in harm’s way. Nor we want to put our law enforcement officers in an untenable position where confrontations with riders escalate — as we’ve seen happen in other cities.

We are also well aware that face coverings are not advised for some riders with disabilities or with certain non-virus health conditions, including difficulty breathing. There are also civil liberties issues. All these are reasons why we’ve been recommending but not requiring face coverings.

That said, we also recognize that our region will be reopening from Safer-at-Home orders in the coming weeks and months. As we prepare to restore bus and rail service that has been reduced due to the pandemic, we want transit to be as safe as possible. And we want our riders and employees to feel safe. Of the 58 Metro employees or contractors who have tested positive for COVID-19, 16 are bus operators.

We want our bus operators to know that we are listening to them. And while we have been engaging employees constantly, we’re a big agency with nearly 11,000 employees and we’re acutely aware that some employees have been on social media and telling the news media that this is a change they want.

As we said above and we want to emphasize, the enforcement piece of this will be a work-in-progress.

Metro has also taken other important steps to protect our bus operators. Specifically, we began rear-door boarding in March and at the same time mandated all bus operators to use the plexiglass shields that help seal the driving area. Metro has also constantly been ordering more personal protective equipment. To date, we have supplied employees with over 715,000 pairs of gloves, more than 385,000 masks and over 40,000 personal hand sanitizers.


Work crews construct part of the Laguna Niguel to San Juan Capistrano Passing Siding Improvement Project, expected to be complete in mid-2021. Photo courtesy of Reyes Construction.

OCTA Accelerates Transportation Project Construction

Even as millions of California residents follow state orders to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, work continues at a rapid pace on transportation improvement projects across Orange County – work the state has deemed as essential.

That includes accelerated construction on several major projects led by the Orange County Transportation Authority, including the $1.9 billion I-405 Improvement Project on 16 miles between Costa Mesa and the border with Los Angeles County, the 4.1-mile OC Streetcar in Santa Ana and Garden Grove, and improvements along Interstate 5 in south and central Orange County.

Construction crews are working under direction from OCTA and Caltrans to take advantage of decreased freeway traffic volumes when possible to close lanes during the day so more work can be completed. On the I-405 project, estimates are that extended closures will provide more than 4,800 additional work hours from mid-March to mid-May.

Construction is also in full swing on a new passing siding railroad track in Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano. The project, led by OCTA and being built by Reyes Construction, began in spring 2019 and is expected to be complete by early 2021.

Crews used a recent weekend work window with no train traffic through the area to relocate and move new rail into place. (Click here to see some of the work that was completed during the work window.)

“We want the public to know that even as we all work to manage the effects of the coronavirus, OCTA remains dedicated to fulfilling the promises made to voters through Measure M and doing so in a safe manner,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the mayor of Garden Grove.

Measure M is Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. Also known as OC Go, it was renewed by nearly 70 percent of voters in 2006 and is expected to help Orange County make more than $13 billion worth of transportation improvements by 2041, including to freeways, streets, bus and rail transit.

With the passing siding rail project, OCTA is working in coordination with Metrolink and the cities of Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano to add 1.8 miles of new railroad track between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink Station and Trabuco Creek in San Juan Capistrano. The project runs next to the I-5 freeway.

The passing siding track is being constructed adjacent to the existing track, connecting to it at each end, allowing trains traveling in opposite directions to pass each other without stopping. The improvements will reduce delays, increase safety and provide more reliable rail service for the region.

The health and safety of the public and its employees is the top priority for OCTA, which continues to take guidance from local, state and federal officials and health experts as it moves forward with all of its projects and programs.

For all project updates, visit OCTA’s homepage at www.octa.net. For updates specific to the passing siding rail project, visit www.octa.net/passingsiding.


RCTC will start work this fall to add a lane to westbound 91 from Green River Road in Corona to Route 241. The 91 Corridor Operations Project is designed to relieve traffic and boost economic recovery in Riverside County.

New 91 Westbound Lane Moves Closer to Construction

Traffic relief and economic recovery are on the way. The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) awarded a $4.9 million construction management contract to Riverside County-based small business Falcon Engineering Services on May 13, paving the way for work to start on the 91 Corridor Operations Project later this year.

The project will add a general-purpose lane for approximately two miles on westbound 91 from the Green River Road on-ramp to Route 241. Developed in 2018, the project was accelerated based on facts and data collected in the months after opening lanes from the 91 Corridor Improvement Project, with input from Commissioners and residents. Environmental studies and design were completed this spring, and RCTC will advertise for construction bids this summer. Construction of the $36 million project is scheduled to start this fall; the new lane is expected to open by the end of 2021.

“Traveling on the 91 continues to be a challenge in Riverside County. Although stay-at-home orders have lessened traffic delays, drivers are starting to return to work, and traffic congestion will return with them,” said Commission Chair Ben J. Benoit, who also serves as a member of the Wildomar City Council. “The 91 Corridor Operations Project will add capacity to the 91 and aid in our region’s economic recovery,” he said.

In addition to constructing the new lane, the project will widen the County Line Creek Undercrossing, build retaining walls north of the 91, rebuild a portion of Green River Road, replace overhead signs, and install new lighting.

RCTC will deliver the project in partnership with Caltrans, the Orange County Transportation Authority, the City of Corona, and the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

This project is one of several that RCTC is starting this year. Last month, construction began on the Pachappa Underpass in Riverside and design started on the 15/91 Express Lanes Connector in Corona. Construction of the I-15 Railroad Canyon Road Interchange in Lake Elsinore will begin this month, followed by construction of the I-215 Placentia Avenue Interchange in Perris this fall. Each of these projects will add new jobs to help the economy recover from jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impacts, The Toll Roads have made temporary adjustments to business processes to accommodate drivers and FasTrak® accountholders. Visit TheTollRoads.com/COVID-19 for more details.

The Toll Roads Extend Time to Pay Tolls,
Make Other Adjustments in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impacts, The Toll Roads have made temporary adjustments to business processes to accommodate drivers and FasTrak® accountholders.

“These are unprecedented times and The Toll Roads are adjusting and adapting daily to meet the needs of our drivers,” said Samuel Johnson, Interim CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies, the two joint powers authorities responsible for operations of The Toll Roads. “We’ve taken steps to help our customers through this challenging time and provide some relief. We aim to ease burdens where and when we can, while continuing to be fiscally responsible.”

The Toll Roads have temporarily implemented the following adjustments:

  • A moratorium has been placed on violation escalations.
  • The fee for having an account suspended ($20) is being waived.
  • The timeframe to pay a toll at TheTollRoads.com, using The Toll Roads free app and via phone has been extended from five days to 10 days.
  • The minimum monthly payment for violation payment plans has been lowered from $25 to $10 and tolls and penalties can be paid off over 12 months instead of six.
  • The quarterly replenishment recalculation for prepaid FasTrak accounts has been restarted with the intent of lowering the replenishment amount for people who are driving less.

Following the governor’s guidance to avoid or slow the spread of COVID-19, The Toll Roads temporarily closed their Irvine Customer Service Walk-In Center on March 13. It is expected to reopen in May, but given the complexity of the situation, the date is subject to change.

“With health being a top worry for most people and economic uncertainty being a close second, as a government agency, we want to do everything within our power to ease the burden of our customers while protecting their safety,” said Trish Kelley, San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency Chairwoman and Mission Viejo Mayor Pro Tem.

The Toll Roads are holding all public meetings virtually with adjusted protocols until it is deemed safe by California Department of Public Health to return to larger, in-person gatherings. The public is encouraged to participate by watching the meetings online and providing comments to the Clerk of the Board via email.

“While most of our customers are staying safe at home, we want them to know that The Toll Roads are here for them now and will be here for them when it’s time to get back on the road,” said Christina Shea, Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency Chairwoman and Irvine Mayor.

The 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads remain open to drivers. Customers can pay tolls, open a new account and manage an existing account at TheTollRoads.com or using The Toll Roads free app. Alternatively, customers can call 949-727-4800 to speak with a Customer Service Representative Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and on Saturdays (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Outside of the Call Center’s regular business hours, an automated phone service provides self-help features 24/7.

Out of an obligation to bondholders, tolls cannot be lowered or lifted. A toll is a user fee and must be paid by all users of The Toll Roads.

For updates, visit The Toll Road’s COVID-19 page and follow The Toll Roads on Facebook and Twitter.


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