Los Angeles finally approves $8.5bn rail line to serve poor communities

A Metro train at Union Station (Port of Authority/CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has approved a project to build a 31km light rail line that would serve poorer Latino communities in the southeast of the city.

The line will run from Artesia to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, following the route and rights-of-way of Pacific Electric’s former Santa Ana line.

The line has been under discussion for the past 20 years, and costed plans were announced in 2017. However, as the cost of the project has more than doubled to $8.5bn since then, Metro has decided to build it in two segments.

The first will be a 24km section running from Artesia to the Florence-Firestone area. This project, which has an estimated cost of $4.9bn, is expected to break ground next year and be completed around 2033.

The second phase, about half of which will be underground, will run underneath Little Tokyo. It was the tunnelling requirement that was the main factor in increasing costs for the project, and Metro may look for alternatives in the future. 

The Los Angeles Times notes that the line will bring public transport to a series of “majority minority” cities that have been underserved by public services.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the decision, Janice Hahn, a Metro board member, said: “These are communities that need and deserve a project like this. The poverty rate in the region is 47% and about one in five residents don’t have access to a car.”

She added: “I cannot help but be a little frustrated at how long it’s taken us to get to this point. These communities are in such high need, but I’ve seen other lines get prioritised.”

The final, which is presently expected to open in 2043, will run through the cities of Cerritos, Bellflower, Paramount, Downey, South Gate, Cudahy, Bell, Huntington Park and Vernon.

Metro plans to tap $3.1bn in federal investment and $850m in state funds for the first stage of the line.

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