View of Metro's Regional Connector construction from the Japanese Village Plaza parking structure. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
View of Metro’s Regional Connector construction from the Japanese Village Plaza parking structure. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The Metro Board of Directors voted on Thursday to postpone the closure of the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station and streets in Little Tokyo that was to begin on Friday evening.

The delay in construction to early January is subject to a written agreement by the Little Tokyo Business Association that it will not file a court challenge to the closures, according to a Metro statement.

On Wednesday, Little Tokyo Business Association served Metro with an ex parte notice on behalf of LTBA and local businesses seeking to enjoin Metro from starting construction activities prior to Jan. 2, 2016. The Jan. 2 date had been suggested by Little Tokyo representatives at prior meetings with Metro staff, since it would not conflict with the Christmas or Oshogatsu holidays.

The letter from Yuriko Shikai, an attorney with Neufeld Marks, stated that the decision to accelerate the construction schedule “severely impacts the Little Tokyo businesses and community during the holiday season, when the number of people who visit, shop and dine in Little Tokyo is seasonally high. Despite this, the Metro stated on Dec. 1, 2015 that it plans to move forward with the closures which are scheduled to occur in the evening on Dec. 4, 2015.”

Ellen Endo, LTBA president, said that the association was working with Metro on a final agreement.

“We’re optimistic that we can move forward with Metro and Regional Connector with a greater respect for each other, and a united objective to work towards the betterment of Little Tokyo,” Endo said.

Metro had scheduled the closure of the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, as well as street closures on First between Alameda streets, to begin on Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. The closures and start of construction were originally scheduled to begin in February, but were recently moved to Dec. 4.

During the approximately three-month closure, workers will excavate the intersection of First and Alameda to prepare for the arrival of a tunnel boring machine to construct the underground Regional Connector.

Metro earlier this week announced a number of mitigation measures in response to Little Tokyo concerns, including a free shuttle bus service and a validation program, as well as added variable message signboards and flaggers to assist drivers visiting Little Tokyo.

The Little Tokyo Community Council, in a letter to Metro, added its opposition and asked the transit authority to reconsider their decision.

“LTCC was surprised that Metro did not first inquire directly with the representatives of Little Tokyo to assess whether the change in the construction schedule would be problematical for the local businesses (which it is),” the letter said. “Unilateral decisions such as this one damage the relationship between our community and Metro. The Regional Connector construction schedule runs at least until 2020 and it is vital that the relationship with the Metro staff be open and credible.”

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