Route Firmed Up, Funding Hurdle Cleared for Metro Light Rail Project from Downtown to Artesia

Route Firmed Up, Funding Hurdle Cleared for Metro Light Rail Project from Downtown to Artesia

The last few months have seen significant progress on Metro’s “West Santa Ana Branch” project – a light rail line extending from downtown Los Angeles to Artesia, through the industrial heartland of L.A. County.

In late January, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors chose a preferred route alternative from the southeastern terminus in Artesia up to the Metro A (Blue) Line at Slauson Avenue and then on up to Union Station. The project will be in two phases: Phase 1 from Artesia to a point next to the A Line/Slauson Avenue station, with completion set for 2035; and then, when funding is available, a separate add-on line to go from the A Line at Slauson Avenue to Union Station, with no set timetable.

On Feb. 28, the project qualified for consideration for the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program. And on March 10, in the federal fiscal year 2022, the project was awarded $1 million in initial funding.

On the route selection, the two-phased approach became almost inevitable as the cost estimate for the overall project roughly doubled over the last five years to $8.6 billion. A major cost driver had been a proposed grade-separated route for a 4.5-mile segment alongside the Blue Line – either aerial or underground. That proposal has been tabled until a more cost-effective alternative can be developed.

The $4.9 billion first phase between Artesia and the A (Blue) Line at Slauson will include nine stations; it could break ground as early as next year. It would go through a series of communities known as “gateway cities” in the southeast quadrant of L.A. County, including Bell, Cudahy, South Gate, Paramount and Bellflower.

“The project will greatly improve access to opportunities and improve transit service to low-income riders and communities of color,” Metro Chief Executive Stephanie Wiggins said in a statement following the board vote.

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Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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