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Fully Underground Light Rail Train Connector in Downtown Approved

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Conceptual regional connector map | Image via Metro

Conceptual regional connector map | Image via Metro
After approving the Westside Subway Extension, the Metro Board of Directors this afternoon also voted in favor of another major public transit project: a fully underground regional connector in downtown Los Angeles. The 1.9 mile light rail line would fill a gap missing in Metro's transit network. Currently, to go from Pasadena to Long Beach, you take the Gold Line to Union Station, go down two flights of stairs (plus a walk down a hallway), hop on the Red Line three stops to the 7th Metro Station, go up a flight of stairs and board the Blue Line train. That's just one of the many current scenarios in L.A.'s transit hub that is downtown, but talk about a hassle and delay.

What the regional connector aims to do is connect the three light rail lines to avoid the sometimes lengthy transfers. Once completed, the project will enable riders to go between Pasadena and Long Beach or East L.A. and Santa Monica without ever leaving your seat. It is slated to open in 2019, but could open earlier if the 30/10 vision, which would accelerate 12 public transit projects planned for 30 years into 10 years with federal loans, is successful.

The project brings three new stations to downtown, but only two new locations. The current Little Tokyo Gold Line street-level station will be replaced with an underground one. The new stations are at 2nd and Broadway at the LA Times building and 2nd and Hope near the Walt Disney Concert Hall. A fourth station under consideration at 5th and Flower, a quarter-mile from the 7th/Metro station, was cut to shave $185 million off the $1.245 billion project (that's in 2009 dollars).

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The public at today's meeting expressed concern over how crowded the 7th/Metro station, already the busiest in the system, would be without the nearby 5th and Flower one that would serve the Financial District. Staff said without the new station, trips would be faster, ridership loss would be little and emergency exits at 7th/Metro could be fashioned into regular exits.

There is, however, a possibility the 5th and Flower station will be studied during this next phase of the project, but the deal is, the private sector will have to pony up $2 million to pay for it.

Today's vote pushed the project to its final phase of study before engineering and construction can begin.