latest news Metro’s New Regional Connector: East Los Angeles to Santa Monica

A rail line through the heart of downtown Los Angeles, better connecting the foothills to the beaches, opens on June 16, Father’s Day weekend.

Known as the Regional Connector, the two-mile line eliminates the need to transfer between the L (Gold), A (Blue), and E (Expo) lines, allowing commuters to get from Azusa to Long Beach in one hour and 58 minutes or East Los Angeles to Santa Monica in one hour and nine minutes. Officials plan to make the rides free for the opening.

Two years behind schedule and $335 million over budget, the four-stop underground light rail line runs through the historic heart of the city from the already existing 7th/Metro Center station to the new Little Tokyo/Arts District station .

Metro chief executive Stephanie Wiggins speaks during a Monday preview ride on the new regional connector set to open soon.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s a game-changer,” said Stephanie Wiggins, chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “It really eliminates all of what we call friction in our system and eliminates the worry of where to transfer to connect to another train.”

The new tracks connect the Gold, Blue and Expo routes, creating longer, uninterrupted north-south and east-west transit options for riders. The connector brings together the three main lines along a single route through the city center and Wiggins said it will cut journey times by 20 minutes for commuters who previously had to transfer. The rail line is crucial to the agency’s overall plan to significantly expand its rail network ahead of the 2028 Olympics.

Construction under some of the oldest urban areas in Los Angeles has proven difficult.

“Building something in the heart of downtown that connects three existing legacy lines built over three different decades – no one has ever done this before,” said Matthew Antonelli, deputy program manager for the project.

Subway operator Glenda Murrell, who has worked for Metro since 1997, operates the train for a "insight" conduct.

Metro train operator Glenda Murrell, who has worked for Metro since 1997, operates the train during a preview ride on the new regional connector that will soon open.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Excavations of the tunnel have uncovered everything from an old aqueduct to whale bones. Near Walt Disney Hall and Colburn School, engineers had to build a track without making vibrations or sounds that would spoil the experience for spectators. On Broadway, engineers had to build the station so it could support the weight of a high-rise building. And Bunker Hill offered a unique challenge: Grand Avenue station had to be built more than 100 feet underground, accessible only by a series of six elevators and stairs. It is the only stop that deep on the West Coast, officials said.

Little Tokyo Station, once a street-level stop for the Gold Line, has been rebuilt underground. The connector allows the north-south combination of the A and L lines to run 49.5 miles from Azusa to Long Beach (soon to be a long A line) and the east-west E line to run 22.5 miles from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. The new Line A will be the longest light rail route in the country, transit officials said.

“It’s our new red car, only it’s yellow,” said Hilda Solis, Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member. “This will have a lasting impact and help revive our downtown, but also our iconic cultural places like Little Tokyo, Bunker Hill and Grand [Avenue].”

Over the summer, Metro is planning a series of community events around each of the stations to introduce the new Los Angeles train.

The art inside Little Tokyo Station depicts the historic struggles that have shaped the city, from the fate of those in Skid Row to the Gabrielino Tongva tribes.

The tour featured artwork at Metro's three new subway stations.

On Monday, Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins, Metro executives, board members and elected officials take a look at the new Regional Connector.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

The historic Broadway stop spills over into what was once the city’s commercial center and features a 148-foot-long abstract glass mosaic paying homage to the red cars, long-gone streetcars that used to pass through the area. A bridge at the Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill exit opens to a scenic pedestrian bridge behind Disney Hall, the Broad Museum, and within sight of the Music Center. A spectacular 61-foot abstract mural lines the towering wall of the elevators descending into the station.

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