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Public Weighs In On Connector Alternatives

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, October 16, 2008, at 02:45PM
Regional Connector Update Metro

Subway: In this alternative, the line would run below Flower and 2nd streets, with underground stations. Green is at-grade, purple represents underground.

Public speakers showed strong support for an underground Regional Connector today after hearing Metro staff present options for the project. Several raised the specter of an auto accident taking out the entire regional light rail system in the case of an above-ground build.

The update, held in the Central Library's Board Room, drew a full house. Two alternatives -- one subway, one above-ground -- were presented for the Regional Connector, which would tie together all of Metro's light rail lines.

The Regional Connector would run from the southwest side of Downtown, at the 7th / Metro station, to the Gold Line on its northeast. The new route would interface with the Gold Line either above above or below the new Little Tokyo / Arts District station, part of the Eastside Extension set to open in 2009.

The two alternatives were much the same as those we reported back in May. Both would start north on Flower before heading east along the 2nd street corridor. Three new stations are envisioned: one on Flower, one at Bunker Hill, and one in the Historic Core. Beyond that, the two designs differ greatly.

The above-ground alternative would emerge from the existing Blue Line tunnels around 5th street. An above-ground station would be placed in the blocks between 5th and 3rd, and the line would cross 3rd before cutting into the 2nd street tunnel. The line would travel east through the tunnel, emerging at Hill street. Once in the Historic Core, the line would split, with one direction of train travel placed on Main and one on Los Angeles. Both would converge on Temple, and the line would interface with the Eastside Extension at Temple and Alameda.

The subway alignment would continue north on Flower, with an underground station roughly at 5th street. The tunnel would curve east under 2nd street, with a station at Bunker Hill. It would then have a station under 2nd street somewhere between Broadway and Los Angeles. In Little Tokyo, the station would come above-ground on the block currently occupied by Office Depot. We presented Metro's ideas for a rebuilt 1st & Alameda back in May.

Cost estimates for both alternatives have risen since May as further engineering studies have been done. The above-ground alternative would cost $709 - $796 million, while the subway alternative is proposed at $910 million.

The project would be competing for Federal funding, and Metro is quite proud of how the project scores on the Federal Transportation Administration's new TSUB (Transportation System User Benefits) metric. TSUB replaces "cost per new rider," and attempts to measure the benefits to new riders, existing riders, and even highway users.

The final Alternatives Analysis study has not been completed, but project staff are tentatively hoping to have the study to the Metro Board at its December 4 meeting. The Board must give its approval for environmental and advanced engineering work to continue.

An identical meeting will be held Tuesday evening at the Japanese American National Museum (369 E. 1st). That meeting starts at 6:30pm.

Measure R, the half-cent sales tax proposal on November's Los Angeles County ballot, would provide $160 million in funding for the Regional Connector. The measure would generate $40 billion in transportation funds over the next thirty years.

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Regional Connector

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