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Plans for Direct Train Connection from Santa Monica to East L.A., Long Beach Move Forward

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

April 17, 2014 -- A six-year $927.2-million plan to connect Downtown Santa Monica to East Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena by rail moved forward Tuesday when Metro staff recommended a contractor to the County agency’s board.

The regional connector project, once it is completed in 2020, will connect three of the region’s major light rail lines, including the Expo light rail -- which will open service from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica in 2016 -- and the Gold line, which serves Pasadena and East L.A.

Currently, passengers must transfer at least twice to get from the Expo line’s Downtown L.A. terminus at 7th Street and Figueroa Street to Union Station, where the Gold line stops some two miles away.

“This is the piece that’s missing,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor, who represents Santa Monica and the South Bay cities on the Metro Board of Directors.

“We have a number of light rail lines that come into the south side of Downtown Los Angeles,” she said. And, as it is “now, you have to make a transfer to the subway to connect” to the lines that come in from the east and the north side.

Once the project is completed, she said, “you’ll have at least a one-transfer ride to Long Beach and Pasadena, and a no-transfer ride to East L.A.”

According to Metro officials, since the connector will be underground in Downtown L.A., it “should speed trips through downtown and reduce the number of transfers for most riders.”

The project, which will be paid for in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008, “is a key piece of connecting the light rail network,” O’Connor said.

It will “give folks another option to get around and hopefully relieve congestions,” she said. Currently, only the 720 Metro bus line connects Santa Monica to East Los Angeles directly.

The Big Blue Bus line 10 connects Santa Monica to Union Station via the freeway, but it doesn’t run as late as the trains do, O’Connor said.

If the Metro Board approves staff’s recommendation at its April 22 meeting, officials said it would be the fourth rail project under construction in L.A. County’s growing rail network.

In addition to Phase II of the Expo light rail, which extends the line from Culver City to Fourth Street and Colorado Boulevard in Santa Monica, Metro is extending the Gold line to Azusa and building a line along Crenshaw Boulevard to LAX.

Plans also are in the works for the Purple line west side extension, which will bring the subway from its current terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to the Westwood Veteran Affairs campus.

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