By J.K. Yamamoto
Rafu staff writer
Representatives of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority presented a revised proposal for the Regional Connector Transit Corridor at a meeting of the Little Tokyo Community Council’s Transit Committee on Jan. 12.
The $1.4 billion, two-mile Regional Connector is part of Metro’s plan to connect the Metro Gold (Pasadena and Eastside, including Little Tokyo), Exposition, and Blue lines. The goal is to allow passengers to travel throughout the area without transferring. Community representatives have expressed concerns about the disruption that would be caused by building the underground line through Little Tokyo.
Laura Cornejo, project manager, and Ann Kerman, constituent program manager, gave a presentation at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on Metro’s latest plans to address those concerns. About 30 business owners, non-profit leaders and other stakeholders attended.
The previous plan was to connect the existing Seventh Street/Metro Center station with the New Little Tokyo/Arts District station, via stations at Second/Hope and Second/Broadway, by going down Second Street in Little Tokyo and making a sharp turn to Central Avenue and First Street to the new Little Tokyo/Arts District station, which will replace the existing Little Tokyo/Arts District station. Under the cut-and-cover method, 2nd Street would be torn up to dig the tunnel below, then rebuilt.
Under the “refined locally preferred alternative,” instead of going straight down Second Street, a tunnel would be bored diagonally underneath Japanese Village Plaza. This would change the location of the cut and cover, and also eliminate the need for Metro to take over the site of Office Depot, Starbucks, Quiznos, Yogurtland, Green Bamboo and Izayoi on Second and Central to use it as a staging area for the huge tunnel-boring machine (TBM).
The alternative staging area is the Mangrove site, a city-owned parcel on First and Alameda, next to the existing Gold Line station. Although development of Mangrove has been under discussion for years, the site remains unoccupied.
The Metro representatives said that the refinements eliminate all cut-and-cover activity on Second Street in Little Tokyo, reduce the number of property impacts, and reduce the impact on existing off- and on-street parking resources. Cut and cover would be limited to a section of
Central near First and the intersection of Alameda and First.
Spice Table, a new Singaporean restaurant occupying the former site of Cuba Central on Central and First, would still be impacted.
The merchants at the meeting stressed the importance of including Japanese Village Plaza in the discussion, particularly with regard to any possible vibrations or subsiding of the land due to underground construction. Also, they requested Japanese and Korean translation at any future meetings with business owners.
Chris Komai of the Japanese American National Museum, located at First and Central, commented, “The new plan is better for the businesses located on Second Street. It also preserves the south section of the Office Depot block. The new plan seems to preserve our bus loading and unloading zone, which is essential for our school tours.”
However, he added, the museum is “still at Ground Zero for the construction. Even if their staging site is moved from the Office Depot block to the old Mangrove site, we are still right across the street from all the construction. First and Alameda will also still have to be dug up at some point. The construction phase of the project will minimally still last four years, probably longer.
“The museum acknowledges that Metro has been making some good changes to its original plans. But we expect the disruption to be significant to our institution during the construction period and are hoping there are other ideas to help mitigate our issues.”
Alan Nishio of the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council expressed some reservations regarding “where the tunnel-boring machine will be inserted to begin the tunneling process. This decision will have a significant impact on the length of time and disruption that the construction will have, and the new alignment sounds like it will likely lead to the decision to begin the tunnel boring in Little Tokyo (east to west). I’m fine with the new alignment, but think we need to continue to raise our concerns.”
The project is now at the final EIS/EIR (environmental impact statement/environmental impact report) and PE (preliminary engineering) stage. According to Metro, the purpose of the final EIS/EIR is to respond to draft EIS/EIR comments, work with the PE team to minimize environmental impacts through design, and develop a mitigation monitoring and reporting plan. The PE team will refine station design/access and cost estimates.
The final EIS/EIR is expected to be available this summer, and the PE phase will continue until February 2012. If everything is on schedule, construction will begin in 2014 and be completed in 2019.
Metro also made a presentation to the Little Tokyo Business Association on Jan. 13, and plans to do the same at the Little Tokyo Community Council’s monthly community meeting, which will be held Tuesday, Jan. 25, from 11:45 to 1:45 p.m. at JANM, 369 E. First St. The Urban Design Working Group will meet Feb. 3, and further community meetings are planned for February and March.
For more information, contact: Laura Cornejo, Metro, One Gateway Plaza, MS 99-22-2, Los Angeles, CA 90012; [email protected]; www.metro.net/regionalconnector.