By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
“This is a work in progress with a lot of moving parts,” said Dolores Roybal Saltarelli, Metro project manager, as the transportation authority unveiled a new concept for the Regional Connector Thursday night. Members of Metro presented the new plan during a meeting of the Little Tokyo Working Group. Following the presentation, the group voted 23-0 to endorse the plan and encouraged further refinement.
The Regional Connector, if built, would create an almost two-mile transit link between the Metro Gold and Metro Blue Line light rail transit systems through downtown Los Angeles. The new alternative, a refinement of the underground alternative, addresses many of the concerns expressed by Little Tokyo community members, eliminating the at-grade crossing for trains at Alameda and First Street and an underpass for car traffic.
The new plan would involve building an underground station, possibly under the site of what is currently an Office Depot as well as build two portals for trains: a portal on First Street for east- westbound trains, and a portal on Alameda north of Temple Street for north- southbound trains.
“This is a fifth option, a third build alternative if you will. We would be underneath Second (Street). We would be underneath the Office Depot property looking at locating a station there that would have access to all lines,” Roybal Saltarelli explained. “We would then proceed underneath First and Alameda and if you were going northbound, the train would go underneath the Nikkei development and surface north of Temple onto the bridge structure that goes over the 101 Freeway into Union Station and
The new plan would add $200 million to the cost of building the Regional Connector, in addition to the estimated $910 million in 2008 dollars. Earlier this month, the Little Tokyo Community Council voted to oppose both aboveground and underground build alternatives presented by Metro and urged the team to come up with another plan. A fifth option opened up after Jonathan Kaji of Kaji and Associates, developer of Nikkei Center, indicated that they would be open to having a station at their site. Metro also met with officials from Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple to assure them that they would not be impacted by the new proposal.
Roybal Saltarelli emphasized that the new plan was very conceptual at this point and it has not been presented to the Metro board as another alternative for further analysis and study. A draft environmental impact statement/report is expected to be completed next summer and the Metro board will select a locally preferred alternative in the fall 2010.
The Little Tokyo Working Group is a subcommittee of the Little Tokyo Community Council’s Planning and Cultural Preservation Committee. The group also discussed mitigation monitoring plans and reviewed a proposal for hiring a consultant versed in transit and mitigation issues to work with the group.
Metro will present the new alternative at the Little Tokyo Community Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 12 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum.