Metro looks at building Eastside extension to Whittier in two phases

Rail line estimate of up to $6.5B now has transit agency examining multiple construction options

(METRO96, CC BY-SA 3.0 - via Wikimedia Commons, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)
(METRO96, CC BY-SA 3.0 - via Wikimedia Commons, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

Ballooning construction costs have compelled the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to consider building its Eastside Gold Line extension in two phases.

While Metro had jettisoned a two-pronged Eastside extension of its light rail line to Whittier two years ago, the transportation agency has now proposed a two-phase build with various construction options because of rising costs, Urbanize Los Angeles reported.

A new staff report indicates the total cost of the “L” line extension has now swelled to as much as $6.5 billion – more than double the roughly $3 billion in local funding allocated to the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2029, with service to open in 2035.

Metro’s solution is to reevaluate a phased approach to building the nine-mile line from Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles to the City of Whittier.

The extension would head southeast along Atlantic and Washington Boulevards, with a subway alignment below Atlantic and a new stop at Whittier Boulevard, according to Urbanize L.A.

It would then veer east through the City of Commerce to connect with the Citadel shopping center before rising above ground to at-grade tracks through Montebello, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, and Whittier.

Metro is evaluating two sets of plans with available funds for its initial Eastside extension phase, with a second phase delayed until a future date, according to the staff report.

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The first option would be to build 3.2 miles of track to connect Atlantic Station with Whittier Boulevard, the Citadel in Commerce, and a new maintenance and storage facility for light rail vehicles. The estimated cost: between $4.5 billion and $5 billion.

A second option would run the line 4.6 miles to an alternative maintenance facility and temporary eastern terminus at Greenwood Avenue in Montebello. Projected cost: from $5.1 billion to $5.3 billion.

Either way, Metro is expected to seek federal funds to close the Eastside extension financing gap. The agency is also looking at several designs that could cut costs, according to Streetsblog.

One change under consideration is at Atlantic Station, where the existing at-grade platform is expected to be demolished and replaced with an underground stop.

But rather than build a traditional subway station, Metro could reconstruct it in a trench which opens to the sky. At the same time, a potential temporary terminus in Montebello could be built at street level, rather than as an aerial station.

[Urbanize Los Angeles] – Dana Bartholomew

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