LA gets nearly $670M to link downtown trains underground

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The light rail transit system in Los Angeles is getting nearly $670 million to solve one of its most vexing problems.

Right now, train riders who want to travel from one side of downtown and out the other must transfer twice.

On Thursday, the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Administration signed a pair of agreements that will give half of the money needed to complete a $1.4 billion project that will take passengers under downtown L.A. without leaving their seats.

The project, known as the Regional Connector, will link up three existing light rail lines with a new tunnel and three new stations over 1.9 miles under downtown. The existing Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line will be tied together with tracks between 7th/Metro Center and Little Tokyo, according to Metro.

MAP

The bulk of the funding will come from a $669 million federal New Starts grant. The Connector will be the first Metro project to receive one since the Eastside Gold Line, which opened in 2009, Metro reports.

The project is getting an additional $160 million federally backed loan under the TIFIA program, part of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative.

Metro provides a little more background on the project:

The Connector was originally envisioned as a rail project that would run at street level through downtown. Public opinion, however, swayed Metro to put the line underground, which increased costs but will also provide faster travel speeds and eliminate the need for a rail undercrossing at Alameda Street. The increased cost is the reason that federal funding is crucial for the project.

With federal money secured, major construction should begin later this year, and if all goes well, the project would open in 2020, Metro reports.

Correction: The caption in an earlier version of this story misidentified a Metro train.

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