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Road Sage

Downtown connector for light-rail lines considered

October 16, 2008|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

One of the more intriguing mass transit projects that has been talked about for years -- they usually require decades of talk before actually getting built -- is the downtown connector, also known as the regional connector. It's a line that would connect present and future light-rail lines, the idea being to eliminate time-munching transfers.

For example, the connector would allow a train to run straight through from Long Beach to Pasadena, a trip that now requires a rider to go from the Blue Line to the subway to the Gold Line. Just as important, the connector would allow riders on any of the light-rail lines to get closer to their downtown destinations instead of having to transfer to another line.

That's key because the Gold Line goes nowhere near the core of downtown, and the Blue Line and future Expo Line terminate at 7th and Flower streets, missing the northern and eastern swaths of downtown.

When people complain that mass transit in L.A. kind of gets them near where they're going, this is what they're talking about.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is holding a pair of public meetings on the project this week to discuss two possible routes: one at street level and another that would go underground.

At the moment, Metro doesn't have any money to build the connector, but it is trying to get a lot of the studies completed in case the money arrives one day.

Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase proposal in Los Angeles County, would provide $160 million for the connector. The Measure R expenditure plan also lists the connector as costing $1.3 billion and says it would be completed between 2023 and 2025. Gulp.

As blogdowntown.com has reported, the subway alternative would cost more than the street-level alternative (that's a map of possible routes from Metro).

Presumably the street-level line could be built more quickly than a subway, but street level also takes space on the street away from cars, a politically touchy notion here in the City of Angels Who Drive Everywhere, Including the Corner Market They Could Easily Reach on Foot.

Again, this is an early study that is only looking at alternatives. But the real action is often in these early studies. Once a route is chosen, Metro tends to stick with it, even if years later people begin asking, "Hey, why'd they choose that route?"

The agency hopes to pick a route and then ask its board of directors later this year or in early 2009 to begin the environmental and engineering studies to prepare the line for construction.

As for the meetings: noon to 1:30 p.m. today at the Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. 5th St.; and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st St.

Metro ridership

Metro just released its statistics for September ridership. It appears that the number of people on all rail lines and bus lines has remained high, even as gas prices have fallen by as much as a $1 a gallon from their summertime peaks. But only the Orange Line set a new ridership record last month.

Specific line-by-line ridership figures (by average weekday boardings):

* Metro Orange Line

September 2007: 25,618

September 2008: 27,987

+9.25%

* Metro Red/Purple Line

September 2007: 136,355

September 2008: 149,699

+9.79%

* Metro Green Line

September 2007: 40,576

September 2008: 45,346

+11.75%

* Metro Gold Line

September 2007: 19,579

September 2008: 25,511

+30.3%

* Metro Blue Line

September 2007: 77,834

September 2008: 84,917

+9.1%

* Directly operated

bus lines

September 2007: 1,179,359

September 2008: 1,253,620

+6.3%

Tunnel collapses

Some bizarre and overlooked news out of Mammoth Lakes last week: A 200-foot-long tunnel that takes Lake Mary Road underneath a Mammoth Mountain ski run collapsed Friday afternoon.

No one was injured. The road also is the primary connection to several high-country lakes, campgrounds, trailheads and the Tamarack Lodge resort. A detour to the lakes basin is available using the narrower and steeper Old Mammoth Road that is extremely difficult for large RVs to navigate. Mammoth Lakes officials say the cause of the collapse has not been determined, but the incident doesn't appear to be a random event.

A bike path has been under construction along Lake Mary Road, and a second tunnel was being dug about 20 feet on the downhill side of the original tunnel at the time.

Mammoth Lakes spokesman Stuart Brown said that as part of that project, the contractor had stripped the dirt away from the original tunnel to check on its integrity -- it was built in 1974. Most of the dirt had been packed back onto the tunnel when it gave way -- with a small bulldozer on top. The driver was unharmed.

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steve.hymon@latimes.com

Hymon covers transportation and commuting. Check out more on the Bottleneck Blog at latimes.com/bottleneck.

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