On June 16, Metro's Regional Connector opened after nearly a decade of construction, finally allowing passengers to once again travel along the light rail viaduct which connects L.A. Union Station to Little Tokyo across the US-101 freeway. Now, the state agency tasked with delivering California's nascent high-speed rail system is showing off how its own trains could one day cross the freeway.
A new flythrough video from the California High Speed Rail Authority (h/t @Renaenae88) offers a sneak preview of operations at Union Station after the system reaches Southern California. The animated overview shows trains entering and exiting the station through long-proposed run-through tracks, which would be constructed on a new viaduct at the stub-end of the rail yard. That process would also require raising the station's existing passenger platforms to provide clearance over the adjacent freeway.
The run-through tracks are part of a more than $2.3-billion plan to revamp Union Station, which would couple the revised passenger rail operations with upgrades to visitor amenities below. A prior flythrough video showcased that project, dubbed LinkUS, which would expand the width of the existing passageway below the rail yard from 30 feet to 140 feet, creating more space for circulation, as well as shops and restaurants. Likewise, plans call for a new open-air plaza adjacent to the historic station building on the west side of the complex, as well as upgrades to the Patsaouras Bus Plaza and Union Station east portal.
While there is no shortage of glossy renderings and animated previews of these projects, less certain are their timing and funding realities.
While more than 100 miles of high-speed rail are currently under construction in California's Central Valley, part of an initial operating segment connecting Bakersfield and Merced, the exact timeline for when the first phase of the system will connect to the state's biggest population and economic centers: Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. A report published earlier this year indicates than design and engineering work for segments serving both regions are expected to extend toward the end of the decade, but does not address construction timelines.
Closer to home, Metro has secured close to $1 billion for its proposed transformation of Union Station, a large figure that still falls well short of covering the estimated cost of the full project. The agency no longer appears to be pursuing federal funding for LinkUS.
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