By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
Moving ahead on the Regional Connector project, Metro released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) on Friday, opening up a 45-day period of public comment.
Metro proposes a two-mile rail system with Little Tokyo as a juncture that will connect its Gold, Blue, and Expo rail lines and allow passengers to travel throughout the region without transferring in downtown.
The Little Tokyo Community Council in February backed a fully underground alternative and opposed at-grade alternatives that would have trains crossing at street level at the intersection of First and Alameda. In addition to the underground and at-grade plans, a partially underground and no-build proposal were studied in the draft report. In the executive summary, the fully underground alternative is budgeted at $1.245 billion in 2009 dollars; while the at-grade emphasis comes in at $899.2 million and the partially underground at $1.12 billion.
Doug Kim, Little Tokyo Community Council consultant for the project, said that the draft EIS/EIR report prepared by Metro includes all of the recommendations that were developed by LTCC.
“The document does confirm that Metro’s staff recommendation is to have fully underground be the locally preferred alternative,” said Kim.
“So far they have honored all the LTCC requested in concept. Over the next two years Metro would work with the community to come up with blueprints and then discuss what those impacts will be.”
Among the mitigation recommendations Kim noted that were included are funding for marketing for Little Tokyo businesses and assurance that the neighborhood would have input in any future development of the Office Deport property, proposed site for the underground station.
“So far I’m pleased with what Metro has done. They’ve confirmed that they’re listening to Little Tokyo and everything is still on the table as far as they’re concerned,” said Kim.
Metro will hold a public hearing at the Japanese American National Museum on Tuesday, Sept. 28 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The public has until Monday, Oct. 18 to review the report and submit comments. On Oct. 20, the Metro Planning and Programming Committee will meet to discuss the Regional Connector and make a recommendation for a locally approved alternative to the Metro Board, which will give final approval on Oct. 28.
“The Oct. 20 meeting is very, very important,” said Kim.
LTCC is hosting a meeting on Monday, Sept. 13 at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) at 244 S. San Pedro Street in the Garden Room A (basement). The forum will present the main points from the draft EIS/EIR and address Metro’s responses to past community concerns and focus on potential mitigation options for local businesses that would be affected by construction of the rail project. Japanese and Korean translation will be provided.
Additionally Kim said he would be willing to meet individually with residents or businesses who have concerns about the Regional Connector.
“People should be encouraged to comment to me, I want to be able to help everybody whether they are LTCC or not,” he said.
For more information on the Sept. 13 meeting, contact Kim at (310) 316-2800 or email (click here); Mike Okamoto (Japanese) at (626) 943-8800 or email (click here) or Chris Aihara (213) 628-2725 or email (click here).
Copies of the draft EIS/EIR are available for viewing at the Little Tokyo Library, 203 S. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles or can be accessed at www.metro.net/projects/connector.