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Little Tokyo Asks Metro to Study Grade-Separated Alternative for Regional Connector

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2009, at 02:16PM
Conceptual Design for 1st & Alameda Metro

To mitigate traffic and pedestrian impacts at 1st and Alameda, Metro has proposed a trench for truck traffic and a pedestrian bridge for walkers.

The Little Tokyo Community Council on Tuesday asked Metro to go back to the drawing board on the Regional Connector, the light rail link intended to connect the Gold Line, Expo Line and Blue Line.

The group asked Metro to study an option that would keep the line underground as it crosses through 1st and Alameda. A successful solution would clear many of Little Tokyo's concerns about the line and would eliminate a weak point in the project's design.

Officially, the Metro is still studying both above-ground and underground options for the Connector, but community meetings have been clear about the public's preference for an underground option.

Current designs have the line surfacing on the southwest corner of 1st and Alameda, crossing the intersection at-grade. That would require at least partial demolition of the block currently occupied by Office Depot, and would leave the center of the light rail network vulnerable to traffic accidents.

The crossing is necessary because of the design of the Gold Line Eastside Extension, which is set to open on November 15. The Little Tokyo / Arts District station was placed right at the corner of 1st and Alameda, leaving no room for the Connector to surface on that side of the street.

A write-up on Little Tokyo UnBlogged says that the developers of the Nikkei Center suggested the new underground option. That may be important. Any solution would require additional land to implement, and a supportive developer would make that possibility much more likely.

"In the beginning of the project, we had some parameters that made it more difficult," said Ann Kerman, Constituent Program Manager at Metro. "If we have a new envelope to work in, that's what we're going to explore now."

It is unclear how a truly grade-separated option would connection to either the north, where the Gold Line enters an elevated ramp as it heads north from the Little Tokyo / Arts District station, or the east, where it runs along 1st street.

If a solution can be found that allows it within site and budget constraints, full grade separation is Metro's preferred alternative as well. "Our goal is to build something that's going to work for the community and also maximize the efficiency of our system," said Kerman.

The Metro board voted in September to submit the Regional Connector and the Westside subway extension to the Federal government for funding. The project is also a key part of Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan, which the board approved last week.

Another round of public meetings on the project will be held starting next week. On Saturday, November 7, the project team will be at the Wurlitzer Building (818 S. Broadway) from 10am to noon. On Tuesday, November 10, they will be at the Central Library Board Room from noon to 1:30pm, and on Thursday, November 12, the team will be at the Japanese American National Museum from 2 - 3:30pm and 6:30 - 8pm.


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