The entrance to the Metro Regional Connector, seen still under construction, is located on First Street between Central and Alameda. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

It began as an idea floated by Metro executives in 2012 during a meeting with Little Tokyo leadership. What followed was an immense undertaking, and a sometimes uncomfortable partnership grounded in the belief that something big was coming to our community.

Eleven years later, the Regional Connector project is finally a reality, destined to open June 16.

On Monday, Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins was joined by Metro board members, elected officials, and Metro executives for a “sneak peek” ride. The behind-the-scenes tour started at the newly completed underground Little Tokyo/Arts District Station followed by stops at Historic Broadway Station and Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station.

An estimated 16,000 additional riders per day are expected to come to and through Little Tokyo once the new light rail is fully operational.

The Regional Connector will provide a seamless, one-seat ride from as far as Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica through the Downtown Los Angeles core, thus becoming the longest continuous light rail system in the nation.

The project is expected to improve other connections as well, bringing together the Metro L (Gold), A (Blue), E (Expo), B (Red), and D (Purple) lines at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station.

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