March 1, 2017 - From the March, 2017 issue

DTLA’s Angels Flight To Reopen By Labor Day Thanks To Historic P3

The world-renowned, iconic, 116-year-old Angels Flight—the shortest railway in the world—will reopen to the public after a three-year hiatus, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced March 1. After accepting stringent CPUC safety recommendation, a unique public-private partnership between the Angels Flight Railway Foundation and the ACS Group—in partnership with Dragados USA, and its project partner Sener Engineering—assures both the preservation of the iconic railway and the modernization, operation, and maintenance of Angels Flight for the next 30 years. Its fall reopening certainly will contribute to Downtown LA’s unprecedented renaissance. TPR presents an excerpt of the press conference, with remarks from Councilmember José HuizarAngels Flight Railway Foundation Board Chair Adele Yellin, North America Infrastructure CEO Nuria Haltiwanger, and Nossaman founder Geoffrey Yarema.


Adele Yellin

"The historic railway will be open for business by Labor Day. The CPUC has certified a plan that will operate Angels Flight by the highest standards of safety, rebuilding a reliable, sustainable structure that will serve Angelenos for the next 30 years." - Mayor Eric Garcetti

Eric Garcetti: Let me take you back to the Los Angeles of days past.

The center of the entire city is right here at Angels Flight. The Westside is the area that will soon become McArthur Park. The Eastside is just as far as the Arts District, but no further. The beginning of the pueblo is merely a few footsteps to the north, and the city is just beginning to become the grand metropolis that we now know it will become.

Back then, in 1901, for a penny a ride, the railcars Sinai and Olivet started to help people move up one of the toughest hills in the geography of Los Angeles. People needed to be able to transport themselves from Bunker Hill to the fabulous market down below. Since then, Angels Flight—the world’s shortest railway—has given more than 100 million rides along its hillside track.

Angels Flight has become a landmark for the city. Unfortunately, for most of my life, these cars have been left motionless. We saw its past glory fade and become a distant memory. But Angels Flight is a cultural gem that tells an unforgettable story about the history of Los Angeles.

With the film La La Land, we felt that sense of romance for our city of Angels. Now, we will soon be able to join Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as we reopen Angels Flight.

The historic railway will be open for business this Labor Day. The California Public Utilities Commission has certified a plan that will operate Angels Flight by the highest standards of safety, rebuilding a reliable, sustainable structure that will serve Angelenos for the next 30 years.

The funicular will be upgraded and modernized to keep people safe and keep them on the move. The wood paneling will be restored. As Downtown experiences its resurgence, the timing could not be better.

I thank the thousands of engaged citizens who wrote me about the importance of Angels Flight, as well as the leaders who brought together this public-private partnership. Thanks to the Angels Flight Railway Foundation, ACS Infrastructure, and Nossaman for dreaming with us. We celebrate the rebirth of this iconic attraction—and once the modernization is complete, we will welcome millions of visitors from around the world to experience it with us.

While I cannot say that the fares will be the same as in 1901, I can say that all Metro TAP cardholders will receive 50-percent discounts on Angels Flight rides for the next three years. This will allow folks to disembark at the Pershing Square station and easily access the top of Bunker Hill—an area that includes the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, MOCA, and the Los Angeles Music Center, among other cultural institutions.

Thanks to Councilmember José Huizar, Adele Yellin, Hal Bastian, John Welborne, Nuria Haltiwanger, and Geoffrey Yarema—an unprecedentedly dedicated team. 

José Huizar: It is truly a great day for preserving some of the history and greatness we have in Downtown Los Angeles.

The importance of this public-private partnership must be noted; it provides an example and a blueprint for how the City of Los Angeles can continue to move forward some of our most difficult projects.

This agreement between the Angels Flight Railway Foundation and ACS Infrastructure represents the light at the end of the tunnel. We are getting safety enhancements and the financial support to make Angels Flight viable and sustainable.

Downtown LA is dynamic and a rapidly changing place. In the last 10 years, its residential population skyrocketed from 10,000 to 55,000. It is projected that we will have 125,000 more people living in Downtown by the year 2040.

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Next, we can look forward to the return of the LA Streetcar. The LA Streetcar will pass right by Grand Central Market, and will be utilized as a last mile solution for our burgeoning public transportation network. But let’s talk about one historic railway at a time.

Adele Yellin: As the Chairman of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation Board, I am proud to be joined by Hal Bastian, the President of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation.

Since the railway was closed in September 2013, the Foundation Board —which includes Dennis Luna, Brenda Levin, John Welborne, and other distinguished civic leaders, including our lawyers from Nossaman LLPhas been working diligently with the California Public Utilities Commission. The closure of the railway left the foundation incurring insurance costs of over $6,000 a month. We are very happy that we now have a plan that ensures the highest quality of safety.

In addition to Sener and ACS, I would like to thank AECOM, Beacon Properties, CIM Group, Omni Hotel, the David Bohnett Foundation, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, as well as Michael Connelly, author of the novel Angels Flight, all of whom have helped support us. We could not have done this without you all.

Finally, thank you to the public for your patience.

Nuria Haltiwanger: As the CEO for North America Infrastructure, I am thrilled to be representing the new Angels Flight Development Company. ACS, together with its contractor, Dragados USA, and its project partner Sener Engineering, is honored to be working with the Angels Flight Railway Foundation, the City of Los Angeles, and LA Metro, on this public-private partnership to recondition and operate and maintain the historic Angels Flight Railway. Our focus in reestablishing this historic funicular is safety and preservation of this historic asset.

This agreement is based on the valiant efforts of the dedicated civic leaders that stayed optimistic. These efforts have set the stage for the next generation of Los Angeles’ renaissance, where we can preserve our finest treasurers and cultural heritage.

As we move forward, we need to clean the site and refurbish the track. Over the summer, we will finalize all of the safety checks with the California Public Utilities Commission to make sure we are ready for riders by Labor Day.

This project can connect communities to their city and their history. Hopefully we can relive the best parts of the past, and look forward together. 

Geoffrey Yarema: Sometimes big things come in small packages. Among many of the greatest cultural landmarks of Los Angeles, smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles’ newest renaissance, Angels Flight provided us with a big challenge: Find a way to take out of mothballs the shortest railway in the world and one of Los Angeles’ most enduring icons, make it safe, put it in service, and make it permanent.

This was a huge challenge, and called for an equally huge solutionthe concept of a public-private partnership. It’s the innovative approach normally reserved for the largest projects in the world; it’s the model being used for the Landside Access Modernization Project at LAX, and that Phil Washington at Metro is seeking to utilize to accelerate Measure M investments. It is the type of transaction that can solve many other critical needs in Southern California. This is one of the first P3 transactions for Los Angeles.

Today, we are proud to demonstrate how this big thing can succeed on the small stage, as well as the big one. But as with any P3, the recipe has to include several key ingredients—including the type of leadership we have seen from Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Huizar (and unsung hero Borja Leon), civic-minded individuals like Adele and the Angels Flight Railway Foundation board, and also Charlie Shumaker, our beloved co-counselor. 

Working with LA Metro to determine Angels Flights role within the greater mobility opportunities for Angelenos, we have been encouraged to see how Los Angeles will continue to change under Phil Washington’s leadership. We at Nossaman feel lucky to be a part of the fabric of this great community.

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© 2017 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.