The city of Pico Rivera is leading an effort to create a 26.3-mile-long rapid bus-transit lane along the Lakewood Boulevard corridor, and it wants Long Beach to be a partner in the project, which it hopes could break ground by 2028.
Pico Rivera is about 16 miles north of Long Beach where Lakewood Boulevard turns into Rosemead Boulevard, which continues on until it ends in East Pasadena. Pico Rivera officials have been pitching the idea to reconfigure the street since 2016. Now it’s reaching out to the 13 other cities that would be on the project path.
Javier Hernandez, the director of innovation and communications for Pico Rivera, presented the plan to the Long Beach Mobility, Ports and Infrastructure Committee Friday morning and said that the project was much more than a transportation improvement tool. It could also spur economic and residential development along the corridor if it’s completed, he said.
“It unlocks a wealth of resources at SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments), state and federal levels,” Hernandez said of the corridor’s potential of becoming a “high-quality transit” area.
Such areas, like Long Beach Boulevard, are generally allowed to build taller and denser developments because of their proximity to transportation routes. While this wouldn’t be a light-rail project, the proposed rapid-transit bus routes would dedicate one lane in each direction to bus-only travel, with the potential for bike lanes and other improvements.
The route would connect bus riders to multiple Metro Lines including the C Line (Green), the new L Line (Gold) extension and the proposed West Santa Ana line that would connect Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles and Artesia.
It proposes a mix of center-running, side-running and curb-running bus routes. The center-running version could cost about $6 million per mile to build. The side-running routes, which would be built along parking spaces that shield bike lanes from traffic, would be the cheapest ($1.5 million per mile), according to a feasibility study conducted by San Gabriel Vally Transit.
Long Beach Public Works Director Eric Lopez said it’s too early to say what would work best in Long Beach, but if the project goes forward, it would depend on the orientation of the streets and how much funding is available.
Talks are very preliminary, but all three members of the Long Beach City Council infrastructure committee said they supported the idea in concept because of its ability to improve transportation into and out of the city, connect outside of the city to key destinations like Cal State Long Beach and eliminate car trips.
“For a lot of folks, that really is another highway we speed through, and this is an opportunity to slow them down and add housing,” said Councilmember Megan Kerr, who represents a portion of the city that includes Lakewood Boulevard.
Councilmember Al Austin said he was supportive of the idea but noted there could be challenges because the corridor is not uniform throughout the 26 miles between Pasadena and Long Beach. He acknowledged that Long Beach could play a big role in pushing the project to completion.
“For too long, we’ve been just the city you can reach from the 710 Freeway, or maybe the 605 Freeway on the edges, but this makes a lot of sense because it cuts right through the middle,” Austin said.
Pico Rivera is trying to gather support for the project from the 13 cities along Lakewood and Rosemead that could ultimately become partners.
Hernandez said that could take the shape of a newly formed joint project authority to help finance the idea or advocate for the project to agencies like Metro or the federal and state governments for funding.
Pico Rivera is expected to pitch the project to Congressional representatives in July and is preparing to present the project to a state Senate committee in the coming months. Hernandez said it would be helpful to have Long Beach’s support when that happens.
“When we go, it’s going to be a request for resources, so we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page in that regard,” he said.
Mark Christoffels, a consultant for the project who also sits on the Long Beach Planning Commission, said that the projected cost for detailed construction plans and a full environmental review is about $12 million. The cost of construction is currently estimated at about $150 million for the entire stretch, Christoffels said.
That would pay for the construction of new bus stations, benches, and other improvements but also the purchase of electric buses and the charging stations needed to keep them moving, Christoffels said.
While it’s unclear who would ultimately operate the transit route, Christoffels said the plan is to have one agency operate the entire route.
“You’re not going to have to transfer buses,” he said.
The project has already been selected for a potential $3 million grant from Congress and is seeking additional funding to get to the $12 million mark. Another potential bucket of funds the project could go after is the $750 million that Metro had allocated to expanding the 710 Freeway before abandoning the project a year ago.
Metro said it would use those funds to make improvements in the Southeast LA communities adjacent to the 710, but Hernandez said the project could target those funds among other opportunities.
What role Long Beach could play in shaping the project remains unclear. The council committee will have to refer the issue to the full City Council before Public Works staff can get involved.
Lopez said that advising would require fewer labor hours than helping with engineering and designing the project, and more involvement could require the city to reprioritize existing projects.