LOS Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) approved contracts on March 25 with two private teams for pre-development work on the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project using what it describes as a “first-of-its-kind public-private model.”

The project foresees the construction of a high-capacity transit line to relieve road congestion between the San Fernando Valley, Westside and eventually Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The Sepulveda Corridor is highlighted on the map.

Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners-Bechtel was awarded a $US 69.9m contract to develop its proposed heavy rail transit solution. More than 60% of the proposed line would be underground, with the remainder elevated. The line would cost $US 10.8bn and achieve a 20-minute journey between San Fernando Valley and Westside.

LA SkyRail Express won a $US 63.6m contract to develop its proposed monorail which would primarily be constructed within I-405 highway right-of-way. The monorail would be a lot cheaper to build with an estimated construction cost of $US 6.1bn but have a slightly longer journey time of 24 minutes.

Metro plans to begin the environmental review process this autumn. Concept designs for the two schemes and alternatives will be advanced and/or refined through public feedback, technical investigation and analysis.

Metro says it retains the right to continue through to final design with one of the two teams or pursue a different project if necessary.

“One of the private sector teams may have an opportunity, after the Locally Preferred Alternative is selected, to submit a proposal to build and potentially help finance the project, potentially accelerating construction and improving project performance,” says Metro.

The Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project will be partly funded by the Measure M transport sales tax approved by 71% of Los Angeles County voters in 2016. A total of $US 9.5bn in funding will come from Measure M and other local, state and federal sources.

“With the board’s action today, we have reached a significant milestone in our efforts to envision, design, and develop the United States’ first Pre-Development Agreement specifically for a public transit initiative,” says Metro CEO Mr Phillip Washington. “As we work diligently to create a world-class transportation system here in the Los Angeles region, we will also be creating a new market for infrastructure innovation that can potentially help us build the most challenging project Metro will ever tackle.”