The Metro Board of Directors approved further study of two alignments in downtown Los Angeles for a 20-mile light rail line to run between Artesia and DTLA, known as the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor. The routes are E and G on the map below.
The key difference between the routes: if traveling from the south, E would run below Alameda Street to Union Station whereas G would run to the DTLA core, where riders could transfer to other Metro Rail lines to travel to Union Station or other destinations.
Here is the staff report with links to the appendix items).
The next step is to continue to analyze the two potential routes as part of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report. A final decision on the project’s route will be made at a late date.
Metro has identified a route for the project south of DTLA, where the line would follow the Blue Line to Slauson Station and then run along Randolph Street to Huntington Park and then use a pair of old rail right-of-ways to Artesia. The project’s name comes from the southernmost right-of-way, which was an old streetcar line.
Planning for the northern part of the route has been more challenging. With concerns raised about construction and visual impacts for the original four northern routes (particularly in Little Tokyo), the Metro Board earlier this year approved looking at additional northern options. Community meetings were held this spring to gather more public input.
Earlier this month, Metro staff proposed the further study of alternatives E, F and G. But Alternative F drew considerable ire in Little Tokyo where F would run at street level. Community members said that would be too disruptive given that Little Tokyo has endured almost 15 years of construction of the Eastside Gold Line and Regional Connector. The Board agreed to drop this option.
Board Member Hilda Solis wrote a letter to Metro asking that Alternative F be eliminated and replaced with a modified version of Alternative H, which would run along the L.A. River and terminate at a 6th Street station where riders could transfer to the Red/Purple Line via a new Arts District Station.
Board Chair Eric Garcetti cited low ridership and slower travel times as reasons to preclude H — and said that an Arts District station for the Red/Purple Line could be built in four to five years instead of waiting longer for this project. The Board agreed and chose not to go forward with H.
I am calling upon my @metrolosangeles colleagues to stand with the #LittleTokyo & #ArtsDistrict communities and eliminate Alternative F & replace it with Alternative H as a one-seat ride to Union Station with a connection/transfer point to the Blue Line. #WSAB #SELA
Read more 👇 pic.twitter.com/RcNxePUVaQ
— Hilda Solis (@HildaSolis) May 23, 2018
There was considerable public testimony on the item with more than 100 people asking to testify. Nancy Pfeffer, the Executive Director of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (which represents 27 cities in southeast L.A. County), reminded the Board that the cities support options that go to Union Station. She also recommended the project be called the Gateway Line. Board Member and County Supervisor Janice Hahn — whose district includes southern L.A. County — has also been pushing for a one-seat ride to Union Station.
Three other points I’d like everyone to consider:
•The Measure M spending plan proposed building the project in two phases — with the first opening 2028-2030 and the second 2041-43. Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation is working to potentially accelerate building the entire WSAB project in one phase with a project delivery strategy from the private sector. Those arrangements are called public-private partnerships (PPPs). No deal has been completed and it would have to be approved by the Metro Board. But there is interest and further defining the project is helpful, as Metro CEO Phil Washington explained to the Board’s Planning Committee earlier this month.
•Some advocates have proposed this project be built as a heavy rail line — i.e. a rail line that can handle larger and longer trains similar to the Red/Purple Line subway. Staff determined that would cost $12.3 billion to $18.4 billion and be cost prohibitive. There is currently $4 billion in funding from Measures M and R and other sources.
Board Member John Fasana asked staff on Thursday if it would be possible to study longer light rail platforms because he expects ridership on this project to be high. He even joked that the line would be popular enough that only some riders may enjoy a “one seat” ride because others would be standing.
•The two northern routes could result in an estimated total project cost higher than the currently available funding. Also, the cost estimates are expected to rise as the alternatives are refined and studied more intensively. As mentioned above, a PPP is a possibility. The environmental studies for the project will meet both state and federal requirements to make the project eligible for federal funding. A $300-million state grant was awarded for this project earlier this month.