The downtown Los Angeles train system got a major facelift today with the opening of the roughly $1.8 billion Regional Connector project, which adds three underground stations and will allow riders to travel between Azusa and Long Beach and between East L.A. and Santa Monica without transferring.
The long-awaited upgrade will eliminate the train-hopping previously required of riders who had to disembark inbound E and A line trains at the Seventh Street/Metro Center Station then board a subway train to reach Union Station, where they could then board an L Line train to travel on to East Los Angeles or Azusa.
To make the transfer-free rides possible, three new stations opened Friday—the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, Historic Broadway Station and the Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station. Those stations will allow A Line and E Line trains to continue beyond their previous terminus at Seventh Street/Metro Center Station and through the downtown L.A. area to Union Station and beyond.
With the opening, there will no longer be an L Line in the Metro system. That line’s stretch from Union Station to Azusa will simply be part of the A Line, while the portion from Union Station to East Los Angeles will be added to the E Line.
The history of the Regional Connector dates back to the 1990s when the original L Line was being planned, since the idea was for it to begin at Seventh/Metro and be a continuation of the A Line. At the time, that plan turned out to be infeasible due to funding issues, so the L Line’s first segment was instead built from Union Station to Pasadena.
In 2008, the Metro Board of Directors included initial funding for the Regional Connector in the Measure R sales tax ballot measure, which was approved by L.A. County voters. The project was also funded by approximately $1 billion in federal grants and loans, as well as bonds from the state’s high-speed rail project.
The project was originally envisioned as a street-level rail line but was moved underground by demand to ensure trains were faster, with less disruption to regular traffic. The project broke ground in October 2014.
According to Metro, its staff had to plan and create an entirely new subway under the existing streets and buildings of downtown L.A.—which involved moving utilities and shoring up other existing infrastructure.
As part of the opening, Metro will offer free rides from 3 a.m. Friday through 3 a.m. Monday on all Metro buses, trains, Metro Bike and Metro Micro.