Metro Set to Vote on Environmental Impact of Downtown Rail Connector

New rail connector will make commuting easier

Getty Images / David McNew

A $1.44 billion, 1.9 mile Regional Connector that would link several metro rail lines will go before the  Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Board of Directors Thursday for a key vote. 

The board is scheduled to vote on the final environmental impact report for the project, which was released for public comment last month.

The Regional Connector (scroll down for system map) would link the Blue Line or the under-construction Expo Line to Santa Monica via the 7th Street Metro Center Station. It would also connect with the Gold Line at Union Station, with stops at 1st and Central, 2nd and Broadway and 2nd and Hope St. 

"It will create a major North-South route through downtown and a major East-West route from East LA”, said MTA spokesman Dave Sotero.

The Downtown Connector will directly access 82,200 riders and add about 17,700 new riders daily and “improve access to both local and regional destinations and greatly improve the connectivity of the regional transportation network," according to the MTA. Rail commuters could shave at least 10 to 20 minutes off their transit trip downtown by using the connector and would save money by not having to transfer to another train.

“You could ride from Pasadena to Long Beach on one ticket," Sotero added.

After the final Environmental Impact Report is certified, then the board can pursue federal funding. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has lobbied Congress for federal funding to build the project now, while construction costs are lower. President Barack Obama committed about $31 million for the project in his 2012-13 budget proposal.

About $160 million in funding would come from a half-cent sales tax levy approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008, which would raise an estimated $40 billion for freeway and transit projects over 30 years.

If the board approves the environmental report, the Federal Transit Administration will need to give its approval for Metro to begin underground utility work and acquiring the land for construction.

Officials hope to start construction by the end of 2013 and to open the line by 2019. The full environmental impact report can be downloaded here. Click the image below for a larger version.

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