On hand for the project launch on Oct. 22 are California Transportation Commission Chair Hilary Norton, left, Arts District BID Board Chair Frank Gallo, LTBA President Ellen Endo, Laura Velkie of LARABA, County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Hilda Solis, Little Tokyo BID Co-chair Joanne Kumamoto, Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins, LTCC Transportation Co-chair James Okazaki, LTCC and Eastside Access Program Advisor Yukio Kawaratani, JANM Chief Financial Officer Doug Van Kirk, and JANM Chief Operating Officer Rick Noguchi.  (Photos by MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

RAFU STAFF REPORT

It has been seven years since the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) broke ground for the Regional Connector in Little Tokyo. Today, signs that the subway is coming soon — surface platform footing and an elevator — are visible at the First Street and Central Avenue staging site.

Little Tokyo and Arts District stakeholders can hardly believe that completion of the Regional Connector rail line is less than a year away. Meanwhile, Metro is betting on the area’s future as a transit-oriented community by launching the Eastside Access Improvement Project, a $30 million program of streetscape enhancements in conjunction with completion of the new station.

Metro broke ground for the Regional Connector in 2014 and began major construction on the 1.9-mile alignment in 2015.

Improvements will include 19 intersections designed to enhance pedestrian safety and comply with ADA (American Disabilities Act) requirements involving First Street, Second Street, Alameda Street, and Temple Street as well as along Center Street and Santa Fe going from Union Station all the way down to Fourth Street. Also planned are a double row of street trees and street furniture along Alameda as well as 1.7 miles of bike lanes stretching from East L.A. to Downtown.

In addition to pedestrian/bicycle improvements in the area, enhanced walking and bicycle paths will be added between Union Station and Olvera Street as part of the Union Station Forecourt Esplanade Project.

Community leaders joined County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Metro Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Wiggins on Oct. 22 to tour the sites where new landscaping, interactive kiosks, and other amenities will be installed within a one-mile radius of the new station.

Wiggins discusses the Eastside Access Improvement Project with (from right) Kawaratani, Okazaki, Noguchi and Kumamoto.

“Today marks the beginning of improved access to Metro’s bus and rail facilities that stretch from Union Station to the Little Tokyo and Arts District communities that, once completed, will provide a safer and more vibrant experience for Metro bus and rail passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and visitors to Downtown’s distinct neighborhoods,” said Solis, who is both Metro board chair and chair of the County Board of Supervisors. 

Wiggins added, “When we started construction on the Regional Connector, we promised to not only physically restore Little Tokyo to what it was before construction, but to make it better.

“This important project helps us fulfill that promise. It provides more access, more connectivity, and a safer pedestrian environment than when we started construction so many years ago.” 

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