Spotlight on the San Gabriel Valley: Grand Boulevards


Grand Boulevards: This is the 2nd in a series on San Gabriel Valley transit corridor projects under discussion as contenders for funding from a transportation sales tax measure that could be put on the ballot in November 2016.

Move LA’s Measure R2 “straw man proposal” calls for spending $4.5 billion on a “Grand Boulevards” program to retrofit about 150 miles of major arterials in LA County with improvements that could include better transit service (such as upgrades to bus rapid transit), bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks and sidewalk repairs, street furniture, cool pavement, shade trees and landscaping. The goal would be to create livable, prosperous, mixed-use boulevards lined by neighborhoods where transit users could live. Potential candidates in the San Gabriel Valley include the Arrow Highway, Atlantic, Soto Street, Rosemead Boulevard, Colorado Boulevard, Huntington Drive and Whittier Boulevard.

The Measure R funding for these transportation improvements could also be used to leverage additional funding from state programs such as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (which is implementing the Cap & Trade program) and the Active Transportation Program. Legislation signed into law last year also allows the creation of “enhanced infrastructure finance districts” that could capture the tax increment resulting from all these improvements and use it to finance further improvements.

Funding for Grand Boulevards could, for example, leverage funding to repave streets with “cool pavement,” materials designed to counteract the urban heat island effect, which can increase temperatures by as much as 22 degrees in neighborhoods with a lot of impermeable, dry surfaces. Funding could also be used to create landscaped areas designed to capture urban runoff and filter it instead of sluicing it into the LA River and polluting our waterways.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has talked about the tremendous need for new housing in Los Angeles, and the importance of building this housing near transit. Toward that end, the tax increment financing could be used to build district parking structures to serve this new housing, dramatically reducing the cost of building it and thereby reducing rents and condo prices.

“Yes we have to solve our transportation problems, but the idea is to use Measure R to leverage multiple solutions,” Cecilia Estolano of ELP Advisors told the audience at our 7th Annual Transportation Conversation. Added Jonathan Parfrey of Climate Resolve, “Let’s use Measure R2 funding to fix up our roads -- not to 1950s standards but to 2050 standards. Given concerns about drought and global warming shouldn’t road repair  also help us address the issues of urban runoff and the heat island effect?”

Move LA's strawman proposal envisions dedicating 5% of the sales tax revenues ($4.5 billion) to the Grand Boulevards program, with the funding made available through a competitive grants program. The San Gabriel Valley arterials mentioned above are suggested possibilities only.

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