The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors today certified the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIS/EIR) for the $1.37- billion Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project that will connect three light rail lines through downtown Los Angeles and greatly improve connectivity for the entire L.A. County transportation network.
The project could begin construction next year and is scheduled to be complete in 2019.
“Today’s approval by the Board represents a major milestone in Metro’s ongoing efforts to deliver on the promise it made to Measure R voters for greater regional mobility,” said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also serves as Metro Board Chair. “The Regional Connector project is one of the most important transit improvements we can build to make the entire Metro Rail system function more efficiently. Its construction will quicken transit travel times, provide more reliable service, create thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars of economic benefits to our county.”
In certifying the EIS/EIR, the Board also adopted Metro’s Locally Preferred Alternative, a 1.9-mile fully underground light rail line that includes three new stations at 1st/Central, 2nd/Broadway, and 2nd/Hope. The board also approved the following design refinements:
•Relocating the Little Tokyo/Arts District underground station to minimize property required and eliminate the cut-and-cover segment on 2nd Street in Little Tokyo originally required for construction.
•Launching a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) from the northeast corner of 1st and Alameda Streets, the property formerly known as the Nikkei development, instead of 2nd Street.
The project is partially funded with $160 million in Measure R sales local tax funds approved by voters in 2008. The remainder of funding is identified through a combination of state funding sources that include proceeds from the California High-Speed Rail Bond, additional local funds and a 50 percent requested match from the federal New Starts program.
The project was included in the Obama Administration’s proposed FY13 Budget to initially receive $31 million. The funding proposal requires Congressional approval.
The Regional Connector will connect the Metro Gold Line (Eastside and Pasadena) to the Metro Blue Line and future Expo Line, enabling passengers to travel from Montclair to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica as a “one seat ride.” By providing continuous through service among these lines, the Regional Connector will improve access to both local and regional destinations and greatly improve the connectivity of the regional transportation network.
The project will minimize the need for transfers, reducing one-way light rail trip times across the county by 10 to 20 minutes or more. The project’s three new downtown stations would provide access to 88,200 passengers, including approximately 17,700 new transit riders. The project design would not preclude construction of a station at 5th/Flower as a future, separate project.
Following today’s certification of the Final EIS/EIR, Metro will continue value engineering to make certain the project is within the Metro Board-approved budget. Metro also will initiate station design meetings with the community and initiate a Construction Community Relations Program. Concurrently, the Metro Board will seek the issuance of a Record of Decision for the project by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA’s environmental clearance — as represented by the issuance of the Record of Decision — is required to enable Metro to award a construction contract. Construction could begin in 2013.
The Board also approved a motion by Los Angeles Councilman and Board Member Jose Huizar to try to find money within the project’s budget — through value engineering — to expand mitigations for the project.
An attorney for the Bonaventure Hotel testified to the Board that the cut-and-cover construction planned on Flower Street south of 4th Street would harm business.
Today’s board action caps a five-year environmental review process that originally screened more than 37 different project alternatives. Over that time period, the project team has received and incorporated substantial community input in developing its recommended alignment and stations through this highly developed, dense downtown L.A area. The project area is the largest regional employment center in L.A. County.
“The growth in population and employment will continue to draw both local and regional residents to the project area, creating even greater demand for our transit services” said Art Leahy, Metro CEO. “The Regional Connector helps us prepare for this future.”
The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation projects the Regional Connector to create 13,770 jobs, $864 million in labor income and $2.36 billion in business revenues.