The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Thursday approved two contracts with private companies for pre-development work on the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project, which Metro praised as a first-of-its-kind public-private model.

Described by Metro as a “mega-project,” the high-speed, high-capacity transit line will connect the San Fernando Valley with the westside of Los Angeles and eventually LAX. It’ll provide an alternative to the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass and reduce traffic on what has become one of the most congested roadways in the nation.

Metro’s board of directors awarded a $69.9 million contract to Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners – Betchel to further develop its proposed heavy rail transit solution concept. Under the proposal, more than 60% of the heavy rail concept would travel underground and the remainder would be primarily in an aerial section. It will take travelers less than 20 minutes to get from the valley to the westside, according to the proposal. Estimated costs are about $10.8 billion.

A $63.6 million contract was awarded to L.A. SkyRail Express to further develop its monorail concept that would have an aerial alignment primarily within the I-405 right-of-way between the valley and the westside. Under that proposal, travelers would get from the valley to the westside via monorail in 24 minutes. The project is expected to cost about $6.1 billion.

“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,” Metro CEO Phillip Washington said. “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.”

Metro officials say pre-development agreements increase the likelihood that the project will be built through a public-private partnership, and help facilitate innovations in design, engineering, construction approach, financing and operations by bringing in the expertise of private companies early in the process.

Metro will now begin the environmental review process. Concept designs and other alternatives will be advanced or refined through extensive public feedback and technical investigation and analysis, officials said.

Several people called in to the board meeting Thursday to urge members to include a stop at UCLA in the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project.

“We cannot talk about a sustainable city or county without public transit directly linked to the second largest university in the state of California and one of the largest employers in L.A. County. We need to build for the future,” said Duane Miller, UCLA employee and assistant director, government liaison for environmental sustainability for the Sustainable L.A. Grand Challenge. “We must promote connectivity and take people to the places where they need to go.”

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