Long Beach could throw its support behind a proposed 26.3-mile rapid bus transit route that would run from the Traffic Circle to east Pasadena after the City Council approved city management to explore a formal partnership on the project.

The plan was presented to the City Council’s Mobility, Ports and Infrastructure Committee last month by officials from Pico Rivera, the city heading the efforts to create the lane. It could vary from city to city, but the plan calls for a bus-only lane throughout the project area with protected bike lanes and other pedestrian improvements along the route.

Paul Van Dyk, the city’s acting traffic engineer, said that the route could provide headways—the time in between buses on the route—of about 10 to 15 minutes.

Plans for the rapid bus route are in the early stages, but the committee was told last month that the project could break ground by 2028. The projected cost for constructing the entire stretch is currently $150 million.

“This is not only reducing traffic congestion but also contributes to a healthier environment by reducing carbon emissions,” said Councilmember Suely Saro, who chairs the committee.

Long Beach’s involvement would be non-binding, but its support could be critical in securing funding for the project. Pico Rivera officials said they currently have been selected for a $3 million federal grant opportunity but are trying to raise another $9 million to fund the detailed construction plans and environmental review.

A rendering of a rapid bus transit route that the city of Pico Rivera is proposing. Rendering courtesy of city of Pico Rivera

Pico Rivera officials told the council Tuesday that they’re planning a trip to Washington D.C. to advocate for more funding and would like Long Beach representatives to be on that trip.

The stretch of the proposed project in Long Beach is about 3 miles between the Traffic Circle and Carson Street with an additional 1-mile stretch shared between the city of Lakewood between Carson Street and Del Amo Boulevard.

Because of the 405 on-ramps and off-ramps, as well as the tunnel that runs under the runway of Long Beach Airport, bike lanes would only be considered south of Willow Street in the Long Beach section, according to a city memo. There’s also the possibility of connecting the route to Cal State Long Beach and other locations in the city.

Councilmember Daryl Supernaw asked if bike lanes wouldn’t be considered north of Willow Street because of the freeway on-ramps and if it would make sense to augment the proposed route to head east to another corridor like Bellflower Boulevard or Clark Avenue once it reaches Spring Street, which could connect riders to bike lanes and avoid any disputes with Caltrans.

“I just don’t see the advantage of making that connection,” Supernaw said of the end of the route that could run through the Traffic Circle. “I do see a big disadvantage of getting into Caltrans jurisdiction.”

Supernaw’s suggestion was not accepted, and he was the only member of the council to vote against the item, citing the issues with the current configuration.

While Long Beach might be looking to forge a formal partnership with Pico Rivera and others, it will take the approval of all 13 cities along Lakewood and Rosemead boulevards to approve the rapid transit route for it to move forward.

Pico Rivera officials said last month that it is looking for funding from state and federal sources and is hopeful that Los Angeles County Metro could possibly take over the project or fund a significant portion of it with funds it had planned to use on the expansion of the 710 Freeway, something the agency abandoned last year.

How the project is ultimately constructed could be a big determinant of the cost. Using the center lanes of Lakewood and Rosemead with new bus stops built in the middle of the corridor would be the most expensive and cost about $6 million per mile, according to a feasibility report prepared for the project.

Using lanes on the side of the street, which would be built next to parking spaces that would shield bike lanes from traffic, would cost about $1.5 million.

Planning for the project is expected to run through 2027, and if it receives the funding it needs, construction could begin in 2028 with service starting as soon as 2030.

A 26.3-mile bus-only lane from the Traffic Circle to Pasadena? Long Beach shows some interest

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.