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Connector Refines Plans to Fit Into Little Tokyo

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2011, at 04:31PM
Regional Connector - Little Tokyo Refined Metro

A smooth curve from the Little Tokyo station to 2nd Street (green alignment) creates the need for less property acquisition (shown in blue) and less cut-and-cover construction (shown in red). Original alignment shown in red.

No neighborhood has been more vocal than Little Tokyo in the planning process for the Regional Connector, the $1.4-billion link intended to connect the region's light rail lines through Downtown. This week a new design for the station at 1st and Alameda is being offered as a response to the neighborhood's concerns.

The refined station takes up only half the space of the previous design, fitting into the northern half of the block bounded by 1st, Alameda, 2nd and Central. More importantly, it creates a gentle curve onto 2nd Street that could allow Metro to use open land at 1st and Alameda to insert the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) needed for construction of the underground line.

In the plan approved by Metro's Board of Directors in October, that machine would have been inserted directly on 2nd Street via cut-and-cover digging.

In fact, the new design eliminates cut-and-cover on 2nd Street completely. That should create less construction-related impacts for businesses and residents, while also allowing Metro to avoid a large storm drain located underneath the street.

For construction staging, Metro could acquire part of the 1st and Alameda site that had been planned for a large mixed-use development. Negotiations between the City of Los Angeles and the developer of the proposed Nikkei Center ended in December, two years after the developer won the right to buy the land.

The October approval of the project's Locally Preferred Alternative allowed work to begin on the Connector's environmental documents and an application to be made for federal funding. Earlier this month Metro received notice from the Federal Transit Administration that it could continue with preliminary engineering, a strong sign that the agency intends to approve that request.

More documentation needs to be submitted to the agency in April, leaving a short window for community meetings needed to hash out final details.

Little Tokyo community members at a presentation on Wednesday afternoon were eager to get into the timelines for when the cut-and-cover on Central and at 1st and Alameda would take place. Those sort of specifics will begin to be addressed in the next two months.

Metro believes the Regional Connector will save 20,400 daily hours of commute time by cutting down on the need for riders to transfer between lines.

It will create one new transfer, though. With the proposed Y-configuration, there would be no tracks connecting Union Station and the East L.A. section of the Gold Line.

Metro has proposed running trains from Long Beach to Pasadena using the existing Blue Line and Gold Line tracks and from Culver City to East L.A. using the Expo Line and Eastside Extension tracks.

Once completed, the project will create an entirely underground link between the Blue Line's current terminus at 7th and Metro and the Gold Line's tracks at 1st and Alameda, adding stations at 2nd/Hope and 2nd/Broadway and replacing the existing Little Tokyo / Arts District Gold Line station with the new underground design.

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Regional Connector

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