By Dan Weikel, May 27, 2014
Reviving a decades-old idea, Los Angeles transportation officials are
planning $350 million in track improvements at Union Station that could
dramatically reduce travel times for many trains and accommodate future
growth of the famous terminal.
Southern California Regional Interconnector Project is designed to
benefit travelers by installing four sections of track that will enable
Amtrak and Metrolink trains to run straight through the terminal,
eliminating the 15 to 20 minutes it now takes to enter and exit the
station at its lone north entrance. All tracks now dead-end in the
The interconnector will significantly reduce
turnaround times by extending several tracks out the south end of the
station. They will cross over the 101 Freeway, turn to the left and
connect with existing tracks heading north, south and east.
the new layout, many trains would stop for just a few minutes or not at
all if they were expresses. Planners say that would increase Union
Station's capacity 40% to 50%.
"If you are coming from San Diego and can cut 15 minutes off your
trip to San Luis Obispo, that is a pretty significant savings," said Don
Sepulveda, executive officer for regional rail at the Los Angeles
County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "This important project is
Metro officials say the project will result in
flexible scheduling, the addition of express service, lower costs for
railroads, and additional track for storing engines and cars closer to
Railroads first considered run-through tracks in the 1950s. Nothing
was done until the mid-2000s, when Metro began planning and an
environmental analysis. But a lack of funding and other priorities
stalled the work.
Sepulveda said about 30% of the project's
planning has now been completed and the Metro board has hired a
consultant to finish the earlier environmental review. Construction is
scheduled to begin in 2017 and be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.
The project is being funded by state and federal grants as well as
revenue from Measure R, the county's sales tax to raise money for
"This will be a game changer for intercity and regional rail in
Southern California," said Paul Dyson, chairman of the Burbank
Transportation Commission and president of the Rail Passenger Assn. of
California and Nevada, a nonprofit advocacy organization. "The good news
is that it makes better use of existing rail cars and locomotives,
train crew hours and fuel, lowering the operating costs of both
Metrolink and Amtrak."
Jane Reifer, a Fullerton businesswoman and
avid public transit rider, agreed, saying the interconnector will make
the rail system more user-friendly.
"Transit riders," she said, "favor reduced travel times."
To make the same trip today, riders must make the 45 to 50 minute
trip on the Orange County Line to Los Angeles, get off the train at
Union Station and walk through the tunnels of the platform area to find a
Ventura Line connection for the hour trip to Simi Valley.
arriving at Union Station "that person might have to wait 10 minutes or
an hour depending on the schedule," said Jeff Lustgarten, a Metrolink
spokesman. The interconnector "will allow us to bring trains through the
station from all directions. It will increase our efficiency and be
more convenient for passengers."