LA Metro Sets Opening Date for Regional Connector

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor, Railway Age
View from the front of the train of the new light rail tunnel under downtown L.A. (Metro photo)
View from the front of the train of the new light rail tunnel under downtown L.A. (Metro photo)

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) on May 22 announced that the $1.8 billion Regional Connector transit project, which will take riders from Azusa to Long Beach and from East L.A. to Santa Monica on one train, will officially open to the public on June 16.

The project, which began in 2013, includes 1.9 miles of new laid track that will allow light rail trains to travel between Union Station and the 7th Street/Metro Center in Downtown’s Financial District—a journey that, prior to the Regional Connector, Metro says, is one that only the agency’s heavy rail lines could make.

According to Metro, bridging this gap allows the agency to merge the hook-shaped L (Gold Line) with the A (Blue) and E (Expo) lines, creating two serpent-like train lines where there was once one. The Regional Connector includes three new underground stations featuring artwork from more than 180 local artists. The new stations are as follows:

  • Little Tokyo/Arts District Station where riders will have easy access to historically rich and vibrant neighborhoods and cultural institutions.
  • Historic Broadway Station features two nationally registered districts: the Broadway Theater District, with 12 original theaters within seven blocks and Old Spring Street, known as the original Financial District of Downtown Los Angeles.
  • Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station connects riders to downtown’s performing arts institutions, museums, fine dining experiences and more.

These new stations, the agency says, will “transform the way many riders can experience the Metro system, providing riders a seamless, one-seat journey from as far as Azusa to Long Beach and from East L.A. to Santa Monica with no transfers required.”

The ‘High Prismatic’ artwork by Pearl C. Hsiung at Grand Ave Arts/Bunker Hill Station. (Metro photo)

According to Metro, the completion of the Regional Connector project improves connections by bringing together the Metro L (Gold), A (Blue), E (Expo), B (Red) and D (Purple) lines at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station. The new A and E lines will share five downtown Los Angeles stations giving travelers plenty of transfer options along the way. Some customers riding to and through downtown Los Angeles could save up to 20 minutes by eliminating the need to transfer. Metro will launch the Regional Connector with the existing 10-minute peak and 12-minute midday and weekend service frequencies for the A and E lines.

Riders will have the opportunity to visit cultural events and venues in downtown Los Angeles, public parks, and other major attractions. The Regional Connector, Metro says, will also offer easier access to medical facilities and jobs, and commerce centers throughout the city. Many of the key destinations are within walking distance of the new underground stations, including the Japanese American National Museum, Million Dollar Theater, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

To mark this historic milestone, the agency says it will provide free rides on its entire transit system, including Metro rail and bus lines, as well as Metro Bike Share services, during opening weekend. Metro encourages Angelenos and visitors alike to “rediscover downtown and explore the fun, food, shopping and cultural landmarks now accessible via the three stations on Regional Connector line and beyond.”

As with previous construction projects, Metro says the Regional Connector line was designed and built with the help of community input and local voices. Additionally, the agency says this project benefited from Metro’s Board approved small business mitigation programs, including the Business Interruption Fund and Eat Shop Play, which helped support small businesses in the areas along this project during construction. The Business Interruption Fund provided support for businesses around the Little Tokyo/Arts District and History Broadway stations—$3.3 million was awarded to 56 small “mom and pop” shops and the Eat Shop Play program provided free marketing assistance to 102 businesses along the Regional Connector line.

Metro contracted with Regional Connector Constructors (RCC), a joint venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Brothers, Inc., to design and build the Regional Connector. According to the agency, Metro’s contractor has been able to achieve one of the best safety records of all Metro construction projects, with more than 7.7 million hours worked without any lost time due to injury or incident. This, Metro says, “is a testament to all the dedicated men and women working on this project representing one of the best safety records in the construction field.”

Metro also implemented a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and Construction Careers Policy (CCP) to encourage construction employment and training opportunities during the Regional Connector project. According to the agency, more than 10% of construction workers hired by Metro’s prime contractors on the Regional Connector project were from economically disadvantaged areas and 20% were hired as apprentices to start their careers in construction. PLA/CCP workers included 66% who were Latino, 5% African American and 4% female.

Metro Board Members on Monday’s preview ride included 1st Vice Chair Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Paul Krekorian, Katy Yaroslavsky, Chair Ara Najarian, Hilda Solis and Fernando Dutra. (Metro photo)

“We can finally celebrate! It’s hard to believe that what started out a decade ago with just drawings on a map is now a reality for Los Angeles County residents,” said Glendale City Council Member and Metro Board Chair Ara J. Najarian. “Angelenos can now easily travel across L.A. County and readily reach more Downtown L.A. locations via Metro Rail.”

“For the first time since the Blue Line opened in 1990, it will now offer a single-seat ride from Long Beach to Union Station,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Janice Hahn. “The Regional Connector will mean that jobs and education opportunities, which used to require 2-3 transfers for residents in my district, will now be just one train ride away.”

“The Regional Connector brings Los Angeles closer to having the world-class transportation system that Angelenos deserve,” said Metro Board Member and L.A. Mayor Karen Bass. “With this opening, traveling across the region can be easier and more accessible all while Metro works to make the experience safer, cleaner and more welcoming for todays and future riders. I commend the many community partners, elected leaders and project staff who have made this highly anticipated project a reality. Moving forward, I will continue to work closely with my colleagues on the Metro Board of Directors and with local leaders across the County to make sure that our transportation system works for everyone.”

“Communities across the County will now have more seamless transit options because the Regional Connector has knit our rail system together,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, representing the First District. “Transit riders who used to worry about making one or more transfers can now sit back and enjoy a one-seat ride to enjoy tacos in East L.A., sushi in Little Tokyo, and to the many more culinary, cultural, and educational experiences our region has to offer.”

“People are going to love the newfound connectivity available through the Regional Connector,” said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “We have built a beautiful, useful, and state-of-the-art rail transit project that everyone in L.A. County will be able to use to get to their favorite destinations. I for one am looking forward to seeing all the families that will use the Regional Connector to get to the beach, rediscover downtown, or go museum hopping with their friends. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to get us to opening day. I can’t wait to welcome everyone aboard!”

More information about the Regional Connector is available here.

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