Metro purchased Union Station in 2011 and since has been implementing or studying a variety of improvements to increase the facility’s capacity in terms of both trains and people.
One of those projects is called Link US. The aim of the project is to make it possible for trains to enter and exit Union Station from both the south and north while also accommodating high-speed rail and building a new passenger concourse to handle growing crowds.
Since 1939 when LA Union Station was originally built and up until today, trains can only enter Union Station from the north. That’s not very efficient and makes for longer idling and traveling times.
The Metro Board on Thursday will consider identifying ‘Alternative 1 with Design Option B’ as the proposed project in the project’s upcoming Draft Environmental Impact Report. The project would provide up to 10 run-through tracks, an above-grade passenger concourse and an expanded passageway to make it easy for passengers to reach trains and other station features.
Under the Proposed Project, regional rail tracks entering/exiting the station from the north could potentially be shared by Metrolink, Amtrak and high-speed rail. The 10 tracks entering/exiting from the south include up to six for Metrolink and Amtrak and up to four dedicated to high-speed rail.
The above-grade passenger concourse has been mildly controversial.
The quick background: the current pedestrian passageway under the tracks is 30-feet wide. At peak hours, that passageway can get pretty crowded — the reason that Metro wants to build a new concourse. The number of people filtering through Union Station is anticipated to almost double between now and 2040 as Metro Rail and Regional Rail service expands and high-speed rail possibly arrives.
Two concourse options are under study. One is street level (often referred to as the “At-Grade Option.”) The other “Above-Grade” Concourse option under study would be located above the train tracks. Long story short: The above-the-tracks concourse is anticipated to be less expensive to build (to the tune of about $500 million) and would likely have less of an environmental impact.
The above-grade concourse also includes an expanded at-grade passageway that will be approximately 100’ wide, which will provide additional travel-path convenience for passengers. Metro staff will continue to refine this option to reduce walk times to trains.
The possible solution: Metro has the time to keep refining the above-tracks concourse to find a way to reduce transfer times as much as possible.
This, too: the Link US project is only partially funded at this time with $950 million available from a variety of sources. That’s enough to make the necessary modifications to the current entrance and exit tracks, build a bridge over the 101 freeway for the southern rail entrance/exit and build two new tracks to the south. Metro estimates that it will need an additional $1.15 billion to $1.6 billion to complete the project and build the new concourse.
Link US, I think, is a smart project that will make Union Station a vastly superior regional transit hub. But it’s a big project with big costs.
The Metro Board will consider the proposed project definition at their Dec. 6 meeting. Your thoughts, readers?