In Downtown Los Angeles, Metro is pairing the new Regional Connector subway and planned upgrades to Union Station with the construction of a new esplanades for pedestrians and cyclists along Alameda Street. But one obstacle stands in the way of a contiguous route between 1st Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard: the US-101 freeway. Now, Metro is revealing options for closing the gap.

The gap between the active transportation projects along Alameda StreetGoogle Maps

A June 2023 presentation unearthed by numble offers a look at three alternatives that the agency is studying to complete the esplanade, including one option which would fulfill another longtime dream for Downtown stakeholders.

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 for the Alameda Esplanade gap closureMetro

Under the first option, the westbound Alameda Street off-ramp would be grade separated below Alameda. Additionally, plans call for widening Alameda's easterly sidewalk above the US-101, while maintaining the westerly sidewalk and closing the westbound 101 on-ramps at Los Angeles Street.

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 for the Alameda Esplanade gap closureMetro

Under the second alternative, Metro aims to alter traffic flow at Los Angeles and Alameda Streets to one-way, which would eliminate left turn conflicts and improve safety for pedestrians. The project would widen the sidewalk along the east side of Alameda, while eliminating the westside sidewalk entirely about the US-101. Additionally, this option would consolidate the ExpressLane-Alameda Street-US-101 off-ramp into a single intersection.

Alternative 3

Alternative 3 for the Alameda Esplanade gap closureMetro

The final, and by far most ambitious of the three options, calls for relocating the westbound US-101 off-ramp at Alameda to Spring Street. This would free up space to convert Arcadia Street into a pedestrian walkway with no vehicular access between Alameda and Main, while also leaving room to widen both sidewalks along Alameda above the US-101 freeway. Wider sidewalks would be accompanied by new stretches of northbound and southbound bus-only lanes along Alameda Street, as well as the reconfiguration of eastbound US-101 ramps along Commercial Street, and the closure of ramps at Los Angeles, Alameda, and Vignes Streets (potentially opening up new space for redevelopment).

Most notably, this option would also include calls for capping the trenched freeway segment between Alameda and Los Angeles Streets. Los Angeles officials and Downtown stakeholders have long to build park spaces over this sunken stretch of highway through a proposal known as Park 101. However, recent iterations of that project have not incorporated the segment between Alameda and Los Angeles Streets.

Image via Park 101

Next Steps

According to the presentation, Metro is currently compiling a technical analysis for the project, with the aim of securing Caltrans approval for a project study report in early 2024. After that point, the project will require clearance under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The currently unfunded project is currently slated for completion in 2035.

While plans to incorporate a freeway cap park into a project intended to close a short gap in a multi-use trail, recent state and federal programs may offer opportunities to bring the proposal to reality. The Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program authorized by the $1-trillion infrastructure bill of 2021 was recently used by the City of Long Beach to secure $30 million in funding for the realignment of Shoreline Drive - a move which will open more real estate for park space near the L.A. River.

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