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Underground Connector Recommended By Metro Staff

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, September 03, 2010, at 07:54AM
Regional Connector Map Metro

A system map with the Regional Connector in place shows the new Downtown stations that the project would create.

A project designed to connect all but one of Metro's light rail lines into a single system looks to be headed underground, but only if the transit agency can find $173 million. That's the gap between currently identified funding sources and the $1.4 billion that just released environmental documents say it would cost to build the 1.9-mile Regional Connector between 7th/Metro and Little Tokyo.

The project hit a major milestone on Thursday with the release of its Draft Environmental Impact Report, a massive document analyzing the benefits and impacts of five different build options.

Metro staff recommend that the agency move forward with the fully-underground build option, a choice only officially added back in February. That's the choice that community members have been calling for since early project meetings two and a half years ago.

New stations would be added at 5th and Flower, 2nd and Hope and 2nd and Broadway, while the Gold Line's existing Little Tokyo / Arts District station would be replaced with a new station underneath 1st and Alameda. The document says that the Financial District station could be eliminated if new funding is not identified.

According to the document, the underground connector would save transit users 20,400 hours of travel time annually by eliminating one to two transfers currently needed to get from the Blue and Gold Lines to points elsewhere on the system.

Currently, all passengers on the Gold and Blue lines must transfer to the Red Line to get to points deeper into Downtown than Union Station or 7th / Metro Center. An additional transfer is required if the passenger's final destination is on a different line. Those transfers increase congestion in those two key stations.

With the Regional Connector in place, one less transfer would be required and that movement could take place at any one of the new stations created by the project.

A pair of stakeholder meetings will be held in September, one on September 28th from 6:30 – 8pm at the Japanese American National Museum, and the other on October 4th from 11:30am - 1pm at the Police Administration Building's Deaton Auditorium.

After a 45-day comment period, Metro's Board of Directors will vote on whether to take the staff recommendation and make the fully-underground option its "locally preferred alternative."

Metro anticipates opening the link in 2019, but that timeline could be sped up if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is able to convince the federal government to provide funding for his "30/10 Initiative," which would compress 30 years of transit projects into just one decade.


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