Many Downtowners are already well-acquainted with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Regional Connector: Some have read about and attended meetings for the project that will link area rail lines to ease cross-country travel. Others have been stymied by its construction impacts, such as the month-long closure of Second Street behind the Los Angeles Times building.
Although work on moving utilities for the project has been going on for months, city, county and federal officials, and actor George Takei, gathered this morning for the formal groundbreaking of the $1.4 billion development. It is scheduled to open in 2019.
“This morning, we boldly go where no transit agency has gone before,” Takei said at the kickoff event at First Street and Central Avenue, making a reference to “Star Trek.” “We go underground below Little Tokyo.”
The 1.9-mile project will connect the Expo and Blue lines to the Gold Line, reducing the need for transfers. It will also result in the construction of three stations in Downtown: Second and Hope streets (behind the coming Broad museum), Second Street and Broadway, and First Street and Central Avenue.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is currently chair of the Metro board of directors, said the Regional Connector is part of the agency’s $36 billion effort to improve transportation infrastructure across the county, which he noted is the largest such program in the United States.
“This project stands out by bringing rail lines together so you can sit in the same seat from beginning to end,” Garcetti said. “So people will say, ‘Well, maybe it is a little faster than being in the car, or certainly more convenient.’”
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that strong public transit is the “lifeline” for workers who lack other transportation options. Two out of three people in Los Angeles do not have access to a car, Foxx said.
County Supervisor Gloria Molina, meanwhile, said that Little Tokyo businesses will be protected during the construction of the project. Although some area restaurants, including Spice Table and Weiland’s Brewery, have already shut down to make way for construction activity, Molina said she and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will author a motion calling for the protection of “small mom-and-pop businesses” in the neighborhood.
“During the disruption that will be here for a period of time, we want to make them as whole as possible,” she said. “We want them here in our neighborhood when this is done, and they need to benefit from [the Regional Connector].”
Despite the groundbreaking, full construction of the Regional Connector will likely not begin until the third quarter of 2015, according to Metro. Design discussions with the contractor, a joint venture of Skanska USA and Traylor Bros., began in the summer. Work will start near the Little Tokyo Gold Line station and proceed west toward the Seventh Street/Metro Center station.