Friday, November 13, 2009

LACMTA's Gold Line to open Nov. 15

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The Gold Line, a six-mile light-rail extension, which cost $898 million, will open Nov. 15 with free rides and entertainment. Here are some details from the Los Angeles Times.

What is the Gold Line Eastside extension?

It's the latest light-rail line in Los Angeles County, running six miles from downtown L.A. through Boyle Heights and into East Los Angeles. When it opens to the public on Sunday, the Gold Line will run from Pasadena to East L.A. The Eastside extension cost $898 million to build. Construction began in 2004.

How many stations are there?

There are eight stations along the extension's route: Atlantic, East L.A. Civic Center, Maravilla, Indiana, Soto, Mariachi Plaza, Pico/Aliso and Little Tokyo/Arts District. The extension terminates at Union Station, where riders can connect to the Red Line subway or the Purple Line or stay on the Gold Line to Pasadena.

Why is the Gold Line not a subway?

From the beginning, residents and politicians on the Eastside pushed for the Gold Line extension to be built completely underground. In the end, transportation planners decided to make a roughly 1.7-mile portion of the Gold Line a subway -- the part that runs underneath Boyle Heights. The majority of the route runs above ground.

What is planned for the grand opening?

Everyone can ride the Gold Line from one end to the other at no cost on Sunday. At the East L.A. Civic Center station, there will be live music, a farmers market and activities for children. There will also be live mariachi and contemporary music -- including the group Quinto Sol -- at the Mariachi Plaza station. The Little Tokyo/Arts District station will host karaoke and food from nearby restaurants. And Santa Claus will visit Union Station more than a month early.

What are the ridership projections?

By the end of the first year it is open, officials expect 13,000 people to ride the extension each day.

What are the safety concerns about the Gold Line?

Some people, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, have expressed concern about pedestrians near the light-rail line, which runs through heavily populated areas. Molina has said the line would have been much safer underground.

But MTA officials said the line is safe. They noted that the agency set aside an additional $4.5 million for safety enhancements, including about two miles of pedestrian fencing. Two dozen "safety ambassadors" will help residents navigate tricky spots on the line. Los Angeles police, the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials will be on the lookout for people jaywalking over the tracks.

Didn't workers digging the subway tunnel find artifacts?

Yes. In 2005, workers found markers of Chinese workers buried near the Evergreen Cemetery more than a century ago. Chinese headstones and burial bricks were found between two and six feet underground. They were scattered among the remains of the 128 bodies. Chinese American historians said the find shed light on the earliest Chinese immigrants who came to California to help build the railroads and perform other jobs.

What's next for the Gold Line?

Officials are hoping for two new extensions in the coming years. One would go from Pasadena east as far as Ontario International Airport. The other would go east from East L.A. to either Whittier or South El Monte.

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