DTLA - If all goes according to plan, by the time the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games open, a new light rail line will connect Downtown Los Angeles to the city of Artesia. The proposed West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor would be a 20-mile effort with a price tag estimated at $4.3-$4.6 billion.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority aims to start construction of the project that will be paid for by voter-approved Measure R and M funds in 2022. In advance of that, the agency is holding public meetings and refining plans, including where in Downtown the rail line would run and culminate.
On Monday, March 12, Metro hosted a meeting at the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. The agency detailed, among other things, the eight possible routes through Downtown.
Metro initially developed six routes through Downtown, which were later refined to four, all ending at Union Station. After a public meeting last June sparked hundreds of comments concerning at-grade and above-ground options, alternatives were developed.
The new options were created in addition to the original four, rather than replacing them outright, according to Laura Cornejo, Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer for Countywide Planning and Development.
The first four routes — identified as options A-D — would all end at Union Station, following paths with slight variations along Alameda Street or Santa Fe Avenue. The new alternatives, labeled E-H, offer two new options along Alameda ending at Union Station, plus one that arrives at an unspecified location in the Financial District dubbed the “Downtown transit core.” The final possibility would have a terminus at Sixth Street in the Arts District, near the under-construction replacement of the Sixth Street Viaduct. It appears to be partially a response to a community outcry for rail in the area that is seeing heavy development.
“We heard from the Arts District, the Industrial District and the Little Tokyo communities, as well the agencies that provide regional rail service such as Metrolink, expressing concern,” Cornejo said. “So, with those comments we went back to the Board [of Directors].”
In Little Tokyo, there has been specific concern about a new project following the construction inconveniences stemming from the building of the Gold Line and the Regional Connector. The latter project, a $1.75 billion effort slated to open in 2021, will streamline regional rail travel, but tunneling and the creation of a new station in the community have produced extensive street closures.
Kristin Fukushima, managing director of the Little Tokyo Community Council, indicated support for the new routes.
“The options are better than the old options,” Fukushima told a reporter after the Little Tokyo meeting. “The original four all went through Little Tokyo.”
Alignment H is the most unique of the options. Terminating at Sixth Street, just east of Santa Fe Avenue, it calls for the site to also be serviced by Metro’s Red and Purple lines as part of a spur through the Division 20 rail yard.
Arts District denizens have long been clamoring for Metro to build a station that takes advantage of existing track, but in recent months there appeared to be little feasibility. At a meeting of the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum in November, Metro CEO Phil Washington expressed support for the plan in concept, but said there was no money, and the project would not happen “unless manna falls from heaven.”
Cornejo said that if that alignment H is ultimately selected, it would be funded through Measures R and M, although exact costs are still being determined on all of the route options.
Two other options would also create stops in the Arts District. Alignments E and F would run underground along Alameda Street, with a station at Seventh Street, before branching off just after Fourth Street. Alignment E would continue through Little Tokyo to the western side of Union Station, while Alignment F would cut through the Arts District, creating a stop near Third and Hewitt streets, before ending at the eastern side of Union Station.
Option G would also run along Alameda, with an Arts District South station, then would cut west to the Fashion District, where a station would be built in the vicinity of Eighth and Los Angeles streets. Metro is exploring two endpoints for a terminus.
“What we’re proposing is a station around Eighth and Flower, with a pedestrian tunnel to Seventh Street/Metro Center,” Cornejo said. “And we’re proposing a station at Fifth and Broadway, with a tunnel to Pershing Square.”
Although the line would continue all the way to Artesia, the northern part of the West Santa Ana Branch would start in Huntington Park. Karina Macias, a Huntington Park City Council member, said that residents of Southeast Los Angeles County are interested in coming to Downtown for entertainment and work reasons, but also want to be able to connect to Metro’s rail lines through the city.
“What I heard from our residents is that Union Station connection mattered,” Macias said.
Metro is expected to choose a route this spring, following community feedback.
A final environmental impact report is expected to be ready in 2021.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2018