DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - At $1.42 billion, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Regional Connector is the biggest-budgeted project in Downtown Los Angeles. The 1.9-mile effort aims to transform local transit by connecting area rail lines to streamline travel through Los Angeles County. It will also create three new Downtown rail stations.
Helming the project is Deputy Executive Officer Girish Roy, who joined Metro in 1991 as a tunnel manager. Since then, he has directed several tunneling projects, including segments of the Red Line subway.
Los Angeles Downtown News sat down with Roy in his Little Tokyo office last week to discuss one of Downtown’s biggest and most important projects.
Los Angeles Downtown News: The Regional Connector will speed up travel across the county by reducing transfers. How do you see it helping Downtown, specifically?
Girish Roy: We see the boom in estimated ridership through Downtown as a significant benefit to businesses. If you go to Union Station, when the train from Pasadena comes in, nearly everybody gets off and gets on the subway to go into Downtown. So making it easier to travel Downtown is huge.
Q: What kind of travel times do you expect for trains on the Regional Connector?
A: Our plans show the train can run every 2.5 minutes. It’s very efficient. The time from Seventh/Metro station to First and Central, we have that at five minutes seven seconds. Right now, you take a bus and in rush hour it’s 20 minutes to do the same distance.
Q: Skanska USA and Traylor Bros. has a $927.2 million construction contract. Is that standard, or are there additional costs because of the Downtown location?
A: The cost is the industry standard, pretty much. Typically, a subway project costs about $425 million per mile with one station. Our construction cost is about right there, and there are three new stations.
Q: In terms of the actual construction, what techniques are being used?
A: About 1,400 feet is “cut and cover” construction on Flower Street, and the rest is underground tunneling. Cut and cover basically is a top-down approach. The space between the top of the tunnel and the street is too shallow on Flower for tunneling.
It’ll be done during night closures, on weekends from Friday night to Sunday morning, and the street will be shut down.
Q: Several lawsuits have been filed regarding the construction methods and their impacts. Where are they now?
A: They’re pending, but work is moving forward. I don’t see any other legal risks ahead. We have implemented significant mitigation methods regarding noise, vibration, everything. We need to make sure to maintain all access to adjacent properties — all vehicular access and pedestrian access. It’s all spelled out in the contract.
Q: What is the design approach to the stations at Second and Hope, Second and Broadway, and First and Central?
A: We’re taking a “kit of parts” approach. What that means is that we have designed the stations to have consistent features in similar locations, like with our ticketing machines. So each station will have a similar design approach to management elements like walkway placement, the Metro art program and landscape treatments.
Q: When and where will construction begin?
A: Construction is starting at Metro’s “Mangrove” base [by the Little Tokyo Gold Line station]. The first thing is the relocation of the Gold Line surface track, and then we’re tunneling west. Design discussions with the contractors have just been mobilized, and that takes about 12-15 months. We expect construction to start in the third quarter of 2015.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge ahead?
A: This is a very challenging project in terms of working with the community. Technically, I have done this tunneling a few times over. I know the issues that can come up and I have ways to resolve them early. The community relations with us and the contractors are harder. It’s all about clear communication. We would rather work longer hours, which we have asked property and business owners to let us to do, so we can finish earlier.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014