New Blue Improvements Project: installing new overhead conductor rail in DTLA

Crews testing new overhead power system at 7th St/Metro Center. Photo: James Wei/Metro.

The Blue Line is in the midst of the New Blue Improvements Project, a comprehensive $350-million modernization to improve reliability, enhance safety and provide a better customer experience. 7th St/Metro Center and Pico Station are currently closed to both the Blue and Expo Line in order for crews to complete track and power system work.

Part of that work includes installing overhead conductor rail (OCR) in the tunnel at 7th St/Metro Center. Overhead conductor rail is a form of overhead catenary system (OCS), or in layman’s terms, a way of distributing electrical power to light rail trains.

The existing catenary system is comprised of a messenger and contact wire supported on the tunnel ceiling. The contact wires are strung under thousands of pounds of tension, so maintaining them can be quite challenging. The OCS wires require regular inspection and maintenance to properly power our trains.

Crews working on overhead catenary system. Photos: Metro

The new OCR system includes a rigid rail to keep the contact wire clipped-in at the bottom with no tension. This allows Metro to utilize more efficient maintenance practices, and the contact wire can also withstand more wear, prolonging its useful life.

This is the first time that OCR has been installed in California. The OCR being installed will match the Regional Connector’s OCR. Metro is heading in a direction to have OCR in all light rail tunnels.

Overhead catenary rail at 7th St/Metro Center. As you can see, there are no wires hanging down from the ceiling. The contact wire is still there but is clipped in at the bottom of the big shining aluminum piece of conductor rail. Photo: James Wei/Metro.

The Expo Line will resume service to Pico and 7th St/Metro Center in late August. The Blue Line will resume service between DTLA and Compton Station in late September. For more info on the project visit


10 replies

  1. Any idea when Metro will start to the excavation of the end of the tunnel at 7th/Metro to the Regional Connector?

    • Hi Shawn,

      The work to remove the wall between 7th St/Metro and Regional Connector has already begun. We had a short update on that Twitter and Instagram, as the process will take quite a few weeks, and we’ll have a longer update later on.


      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  2. Is there to be a shake up on the bus side to restore the service lost due to buses being used on the Blue Line.?

  3. There used to be an overhead conductor rail for SF’s Muni underground until it was replaced with a catenary system a few years ago.

    Go figure on what’s cheaper in the end.

  4. I am assuming that the new OCR system is also being installed in the new underground tunnels of the forthcoming Crenshaw Line? And, what about the the underground tunnels that already exist for the Gold Line Eastside extension in Boyle Heights?

    • Hi Morris;

      The Crenshaw/LAX Line has been designed with OCR in the tunnels and installation is currently in progress. The existing Eastside tunnel has an OCS wire system. There are no immediate plans for conversion since it is relatively new. However, when the time comes for us to modernize that line, OCR will be considered.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source