Santa Monica to Little Tokyo. Pasadena to Long Beach. When LA Metro’s new $1.8 billion regional connector opens to the public later this year, more long-haul light rail trips will be available without transferring trains.
Part of that overhaul means Santa Monica will soon be bidding farewell to the powder-blue “E” Expo Line insignia, to be replaced with a consolidated line stretching from 4th Street in the West through to East Los Angeles — and possibly one day all the way out to Whittier (in a proposed Phase 2 extension of the existing Gold Line).
On Monday morning, LA Metro invited the press to tour the new Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill station in Downtown LA, one of three new stations that will link the current Expo (“E”) Line with the current Gold (“L”) Line. Once complete, the two lines will merge into a new combined line, which will keep the “E” for Expo and the gold color of the “L” line trains.
“Imagine you wake up in Boyle Heights, and you want to go to the beach, or it’s New Year’s Day, and you’re in Long Beach and want to head to the Rose Parade, but you don’t want to get in your car,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said during the press event on April 18. “This allows us to finally do that, all without a transfer. I mean, it’s a one-seat ride from Boyle Heights to the beach, so you can get that, or vice versa: If you wake up at the beach and want the best taco in Boyle Heights, get on the train.”
The transit project will make 7th Street Metro, the Expo Line’s current terminus, into the main transit hub for Los Angeles, where the new gold “E” Line will meet an expanded Blue “A” Line and existing Red (“B”) and Purple (“D”) lines.
But instead of hopping off the train at 7th Street and walking down the stairs to reach the Red and Purple line trains, transit users can continue on to new stations: Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill, Historic Broadway and Little Tokyo/Arts District. From there, the two light rail lines (“E” and “A”) diverge, with “A” trains either heading up through Union Station and then Pasadena and out to Azusa, or south to Long Beach.
Monday’s press event also included members of the LA Metro Board of Directors including its chair, Supervisor Hilda Solis, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (representing downtown Los Angeles) and many LA Metro staff.
“I’m told that in the ’40s, we had the most advanced public transportation system in the country,” LA Metro Board Director Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker said. “We abandoned it, for some strange reason, and you are part of history bringing it back. We appreciate the community and all the stakeholders who had patience during this time, and we look forward to them joining us in the celebration.”
Garcetti announced that much of the project was already complete: “The trackwork, the rail guideways, the platform areas are now complete. Testing is underway,” Garcetti said, adding that the system should be open to the public by the end of 2022.
Following remarks, Garcetti, Solis and other dignitaries, swarmed by TV cameras, rode the train for a test ride to the Historic Broadway Station and back, with those on board breaking out into applause as the train began to move and again when it slid into the Broadway station.
While Solis said the project was on track for fall 2022, the director of planning and development for LA County’s First Supervisorial District, Waqas Rehman, said they were hopeful it may open even earlier — Rehman estimated it could be ready for the public by as early as June or July.
First envisioned in 2010, the project broke ground in 2014 and took about eight years to complete. It was clear for many of the Metro employees present that the project had been long anticipated.
“We’re on the f***ing train, man,” one emotional LA Metro employee told another before they embraced as the doors slid shut.