Metro refines Regional Connector route through Little Tokyo

Refined Alignment for Regional Connector

Metro has made some new refinements to the proposed alignment for the Regional Connector project through Little Tokyo. The aim is to bring down costs and lessen construction impacts in the area.

The proposed change would essentially eliminate the sharp curves the light rail alignment was going to use to meet up with the Metro Gold Line at 1st and Alameda. Metro staff will brief the Little Tokyo Business Improvement District on Thursday. On Wednesday, Metro presented the changes to the Little Tokyo Community Council Transit Committee in order to receive feedback.

Metro’s project team says the refined route would avoid a storm drain on 2nd Street, avoid the Office Depot property and most of the businesses businesses facing Central Avenue. The refinements would also mean the elimination of having cut and cover construction along 2nd Street within the Little Tokyo community.  These were key concerns raised by the Little Tokyo stakeholders during the draft environmental study process.

So far, Little Tokyo stakeholders have given the proposed changes a warm reception. The agency will still have to do cut and cover around the station box, but that work will be confined to the north side of the Office Depot block, adjacent to 1st Street and Central Avenue.

Metro project planners say the refinement would bring down the project cost. During this phase of the project, the team is looking to “value engineer” the project (i.e., evaluate engineering methods that lower construction costs) as much as possible to keep the project within budget.

The project team plans to follow up these meetings with a station design workshop where planners will start designing key Little Tokyo station elements, including station entrances and design features.

The next community update meetings are planned in late February/early March, when Metro will show additional progress on engineering.

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17 replies

  1. Great. Metro does even more for Little Toyko.

    All, at the expense of the Financial District, of course…

    Sigh…

  2. A couple of thoughts:

    1) Transit experts know that tunneling under Japanese Village Plaza will be safe, but NIMBYs don’t. Metro will have to do a lot of explaining to avoid the situation in Century City/ Beverly Hills.

    2) Why is the south end of the Office Depot block more important than the north end? In other words, are we doing this to save Office Depot, but eliminating historic (former) Atomic Cafe?

    3) What will this mean for developing the block formerly known as the Mangrove? Some of us still hope there will be a Nikkei Center (currently in hibernation, but something ought to go there).

  3. This new alignment will actually make a sharper curve at First/Alameda, for the track coming down from Union Station. This means that either (a) the project will need more land to be taken from the Mangrove Site, to accommodate the curve, or (b) the trains will have to travel much slower through this sharper curve. Is this not true?

    While I’m happy for any changes that will have less impact on the community and lower costs, I’d like to know about any tradeoffs involved as well.

  4. James, I don’t think too much explaining to NIMBYs will be needed. I don’t think there will be too many NIMBYs becuase I think the residents and mall will prefer this much better than the terrible disruption, noise and dirt from a cut and cover alternative down 2nd.

  5. @JRider

    How is a modification to the project that will save money, at the “expense” of the Financial District?

    If they can find more savings like this at the “expense” of the Financial District we might just get that 5th street station.

    @James

    I think we’ve seen a lot less crazy NIMBY-ism out of Little Tokyo than other regions. The original plan to run all the trains from four different branches across Alameda at-grade was crazy, and they were right to oppose it.

  6. At this point – the discussion of a 5th/Flower station is finished. It won’t happen. Let’s turn our focus to expanding 7th street/Metro Center station with new portals on 6th stret; to give greater convenience to the northern section of the Financial District. It could be one of the greatest stations ever built!

  7. @ds:

    The whole grade-separated Little Tokyo junction concept was a bait-and-switch.

    I love the concept of the Regional Connector project but the way Metro has handled this has not been okay. They offered improvements to the project in the form of an upgrade from the at-grade 1st/Alameda junction to an underground 1st/Alameda. Sounds good.

    But later they turn around and say that suddenly there’s no money left for a Financial District station.

    This particular tweak is more of Metro bending over backwards to please Little Tokyo but at the same time forcing the Financial District to pony up money for Metro to even CONSIDER building the Financial District station.

    *END RANT*

  8. There are some NIMBYs in Little Tokyo.

    For example, S.K. Uyeda Department Store is on First Street, but they always opposed the tunneling on Second Street, with or without the at-grade option.

    Of course, TBM is a better option than cut-and-cover. I hadn’t noticed that change earlier.

  9. @JRider

    It never made sense to run the regional connector at grade across Alameda. A single accident at that intersection would end up shutting down the Gold, Blue, and Expo lines.

    Running that many trains at grade is operationally very difficult, even if there are no accidents. Flower St is going to be a mess when the Expo line opens and shares the Blue line track.

  10. This looks like a fine plan but is it the best possible station arrangement?

    Would not the best station be one that would allow trains coming from Union Station towards Little Tokyo to go all directions? I think that the ideal Little Tokyo station would allow trains to continue along the current gold line towards East LA, pass through the new regional connector tracks towards Long Beach, or even pass through the new regional connector tracks towards Culver City.

    Trains from all directions should be able to turn in all directions to increase the system’s overall accessibility. Lines do not need to go only east-west or north-south. Doing this would reduce the amount of transfers that passengers need to make, cutting valuable time off of trips.

  11. Like it or not, Little Tokyo has to understand that they are in an urban area that badly needs this project. This specific project is going to be a game changer in Los Angeles. It isn’t just going to benefit downtown, but will have ripple effects throughout the Metro system.

    This and the subway extension are the most important transportation projects in Los Angeles County, and perhaps the state.

  12. Building on Dylan’s point: I agree about having more than just a N/S & E/W routes… Utilizing this proposed track alignment, to me, you could have four routes total:

    1) LB-SGV
    2) LB-ELA
    3) Westside-SGV
    4) Westside-ELA

    A single transfer would be required to go:

    5) LB-Westside
    6) SGV-ELA

    If these routes mirror commuting patterns from Metro’s survey data, this new alignment then makes sense.

    However, with your “all directions” approach at Little Tokyo and Washington/Flower, two more “direct” lines could be created (#5+6) That eliminates the need for a transfer on those two trains bypassing the regional connector’s downtown tracks…

    Once the alignment is built though, without service from SGV to ELA, I am not sure it ever will be changed due to the underground portals. Washington and Flower, can be more easily changed on the surface, I would think.

    Therefore our options seem to be two lines requiring transfers, or up to six lines requiring none. If the stations along the DT Connector have center platforms for easy transfers, two lines may work.

  13. It is comforting to see that Little Tokyo’s Y-configuration will be buried underground–as opposed to the situation at Washington/Flower which would dangerously interfere with automobile traffic!

  14. @Ken
    I don’t know if your are referring to this project or our rail system as a whole. If its the latter than I certainly agree. But this project is actually well planned because it is fully grade separated for once and is very unlike the soon-to-be fiasco at Washington and flower. Its completely ludicrous that it is at-grade with the peak headways and amount of car traffic. It way too tight of an interface between cars and trains. That is not going to work out well and will be even worse if trains actually have to wait for lights. A very similar example is the intersection of fourth and king streets in San Francisco.

  15. This is truly wonderful news. The Connector is going to make large changes in attracting more rail riders and support. Now if only the 30/10 initiative would come together!

    We are all in Little Tokyo’s debt for the badly needed changes that help keep the Connector off 2nd St., then refused to let Metro destroy the intersection at First and Alameda Sts., and finally for this newest development, rotating the underground Little Tokyo station into a far better alignment while making the least possible disruption there. The Los Angeles Downtown News link is only good for a week or two but here’s a snippet that might help.

    http://www.ladowntownnews.com/articles/2011/01/18/news/doc4d2e494270d75128271837.txt
    Previously, Metro planned to use the Office Depot property primarily as a construction staging area; it would have served as temporary storage for the hulking tunnel boring machine that will work under Second Street. The agency is now negotiating to move staging to the city-owned “Mangrove” property on the northeast corner of First and Alameda streets. A proposed mixed-use development for that site has long been stalled.

    The changes reflect preliminary solutions to a host of concerns lodged by Little Tokyo stakeholders in response to the draft environmental impact report that Metro released on the project last year, said Metro spokeswoman Ann Kerman.