Metro celebrates start of work to improve walking and biking access between Little Tokyo/Arts District and Union Station

A rendering of the new esplanade that will be built along Alameda Street.

Above and below, renderings of the new underground light rail station bounded by 1st, Central and Alameda streets.


Metro today marked the beginning of construction on the Eastside Access Improvement Project, a project that will build key streetscape, pedestrian safety and bicycle access improvements for everyone walking or bicycling in downtown L.A. between the Little Tokyo/Arts District and Los Angeles Union Station.

Project improvements will be centered within a one-mile radius of the Metro Regional Connector Transit Project’s future Little Tokyo/Arts District Station at 1st Street and Central Avenue. This new rail line, currently under construction, is a 1.9-mile underground light rail project that will provide a more seamless connection between the Metro L Line (Gold), the A Line (Blue) and the E Line (Expo) through downtown L.A.

The project calls for improvements along seven different street segments: 1st Street, Alameda Street, Los Angeles Street, 2nd Street, Central Avenue, Judge John Aiso Street, and along Santa Fe Avenue and Center Street from Los Angeles Union Station to 4th Street. Metro will make crosswalk improvements at 19 intersections, build a bike/walk esplanade featuring double rows of street trees and will build nearly 1.7 miles of local bike lanes

Members of the Little Tokyo/Arts District community at the media event Friday morning with L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Hilda Solis (in purple) and Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins (in bright blue).

The project also provides streetscape improvements that include sidewalk widening, repairs, tree plantings, replacement of 100 traditional streetlights with low-energy LED lighting and installation of bioswales to improve stormwater runoff and reduce water pollution from reaching the ocean.  Project improvements are expected to be completed in 2022.

“Today marks the beginning of improved access to Metro’s bus and rail facilities that stretch from Union Station to the Little Tokyo and Arts District communities that, once completed, will provide a safer and more vibrant experience for Metro bus and rail passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and visitors to downtown’s distinct neighborhoods,” said Metro Board Chair and Chair of the Los Angeles County Supervisors, Hilda L. Solis. “These improvements will provide enhanced access to and from these vibrant communities while we work to expand our bus and rail network, and they will go a long way in enhancing the quality of life for all residents nearby.”

The $29.7-million project is funded through a combination of federal grants, including a Federal Transit Administration Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER VI) grant, and local Metro Measure R half-cent sales tax funding. Construction is expected to be completed in 2022.

“When we started construction on the Regional Connector Project, we promised to not only physically restore Little Tokyo to what it was before construction, but to make it better,” said Metro CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins. “This important project helps us fulfill that promise. It provides more access, more connectivity, and a safer pedestrian environment than when we started Regional Connector construction so many years ago.”

Metro is planning other connecting pedestrian/bicycle improvements in the area. The Los Angeles Union Station Forecourt Esplanade Project, for example, will enhance walking and bicycle paths between Union Station and Olvera Street by adding new sidewalks, crosswalks, street trees, lighting and civic space. Metro is currently coordinating with the City of LA to prepare for construction.

Little Tokyo is one of only three Japantowns in the United States. The district is the heart of the largest Japanese American population in the United States. Little Tokyo was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1995.

For additional project information, please visit

Here is a map that shows the street segments where the improvements will take place:

1) 1st Street from Los Angeles to Mission Street
2) Alameda Street from Commercial Street to 1st Street
3) Los Angeles Street from Arcadia Street to 2nd Street
4) 2nd Street to Traction Avenue and Alameda Street – Intersection
5) Central Avenue from 1st Street to 3rd Street
6)Judge John Aiso/San Pedro Street from Temple Street to 3rd Street
7) Santa Fe Street from Vignes Avenue to 4th Street


9 replies

  1. The tile design makes it look like a passenger drop off, but it isn’t. The barriers probably have a purpose, but I don’t see it. If they’re a board for maps or directions, they should be placed closer to the street. I don’t see how the first picture relates to the second picture. Where’s the bike lanes in the second picture that’s sandwiched between 2 rows of trees on Alameda? The pictures are likely done at different times and not indicative of the final result. Overall, it’s a mess in design. I’m so disappointed that I have to waste an half hour trying to figure it out when it should take no time at all.

  2. According to MTA documents, the elevated portion just north of Temple Street will remain. This means the extended A Blue line will cross Temple Street UNDERground (no longer having to wait at a street level traffic signal to cross Temple Street at grade) and emerge on the current tracks just north of Temple Street that lead to the current elevated structure.

    • Hi Harry;

      That is correct – the train will now pass under Temple instead of the crossing that was at street level.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Nice. Seems like a good reuse of the space leftover from the previous street level tracks. It would be nice to see way more two-way protected bikeways like this around LA, besides the ones already in downtown.

    As far as the station plaza is concerned, that’s an awful lot of mostly empty space that would ideally be suited to urban development which I would hope is not precluded here, especially given how building the station itself already necessitated tearing down a few existing buildings with active businesses in them. Unfortunately, it appears that the angle and manner in which the entrance portal and elevator entrances are laid out and spread out overall would make it difficult to work around as far as further development. This is a bizarre oversight which might have negative consequences on being able to make the most use of the space in the future and Metro ought not to repeat this design for future station entrances. So many of Metro’s underground station portals are sort of these holes in the ground surrounded by mostly empty concrete space (or whatever material is used). The goal ought to be something more like what we see at 7th street metro center where the entrances are appropriately integrated into the buildings.

    • If I recall (and I could be REALLY wrong with this one), but other than the land where the Señor fish was at, the ground/surface level of the station was supposed to be park/community space, and not intended to build live/work spaces. I guess you could think of the Mariachi Plaza station

      I would expect trees and benches to pop up over the next year or so.

  4. Is the esplanade extending all the way to Union Station on Alameda from Little Tokyo, or ending at the 101? I’m confused between the map image and title of the post. Thanks!

    • Hi Clarm;

      The esplanade will run between 1st and Temple.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Will the surface/elevated segment of the L (Gold) Line that connects to the OLD Little Tokyo station be dismantled?

    • Hi Morris;

      Yes, the tracks at street level are gone. Along Alameda, the train will be running underground just north of Temple Street. On 1st Street, the tracks will enter the tunnel just west of Alameda Street.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source