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Catching Up With... The Regional Connector

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, December 26, 2008, at 12:50PM
Regional Connector Update Metro

A rendering from Metro's October presentation depicts a below-ground station next to the Bonaventure Hotel.

As we go through the last few days of 2008, we thought it useful to take a look at some of the important Downtown projects working their way through the system.

The Project: The Regional Connector is a $700 to $900 million project to link Los Angeles' light rail lines, connecting the Blue and Expo lines (which terminate at 7th / Metro) to the Gold Line and the Eastside Extension (via 1st / Alameda). The project's main goal is to create a coherent system out of Metro's existing rail lines, opening up a variety of operational possibilities including trains from Long Beach to Pasadena and Culver City to East L.A..

Latest Status: After three rounds of public meetings, the project is preparing to send an Alternatives Analysis to Metro's Board of Directors. This document will lay out two possibilities for the project, one underground and one above.

2008 Accomplishments: Public meetings on the project kicked off back in November of 2007 with a pair of forums held at the Central Library and Japanese American National Museum. These first meetings were very open-ended, presenting the general project oals and simply soliciting feedback. The response was clear: the project should be light rail and it should be underground.

In February, another round of meetings were held to review eight alternatives for project routing. Five of them were above-ground, while three offered a mostly below-grade design. Again, public comment was clear that the project should be built below ground.

In May, cost analysis started to emerge, showing that there was less of a difference in price between the above- and below-grade options than many had thought. The price tag for the above-grade design is currently estimated at $700 - $800 million, while the below-grade alternative would run approximately $910 million.

May also saw the unveiling of a proposed design for the 1st and Alameda intersection, where the underground options would emerge to connect to the above-grade Gold Line Eastside Extension.

A final round of public meetings in October offered the two options to be presented in the upcoming Alternatives Analysis. Again, public support was heavily on the side of the underground option.

Finally, in November the passage of Measure R offered $160 million in local funds earmarked for the Connector. These funds can be leveraged as a local match when competing for federal transportation dollars.

What's Next: Within the first month or two of 2009, the Alternatives Analysis will go to the Metro Board of Directors. Once approved, more engineering work can commence, a preferred alternative can be selected and formal environmental documents can be prepared. The project has not released a clear timetable for when the Connector would be up and running, since so much depends on how quickly the funding can be secured.

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