Last month, Metro held a community meeting to provide updates on Link Union Station – the project which proposes to expand the historic rail terminal’s passenger capacity by constructing run-through tracks and a new passenger concourse.  With a draft environmental impact report tentatively scheduled for publication in December 2018, Metro staff have made recommendations for two of the project’s main components.

According to materials shown at the community meeting – and scheduled for presentation at next week’s meeting of the Westside/Central Service Council – Metro staff have recommended the construction of an above-grade passenger concourse which would sit atop the Union Station rail yard.  The above-grade alternative is one of two being considered by Metro, the other option being an at-grade concourse which would expand upon an existing service tunnel running beneath the station platforms.

In recommending an above-grade platform, Metro staff cites cost as a key consideration.  The above-grade concourse would cost an estimated $1.15 billion to construct, a relative discount to the approximately $1.5-billion price tag of the at-grade alternative.  The presentation also notes that an above-grade concourse would require less soil export – thereby reducing short-term traffic and air quality effects during construction – and require less ground disturbance.

Metro staff have also recommended that the proposed run-through tracks be built without dedicated high-speed rail tracks.  Carving out space for future high-speed rail service would require an expansion of the Union Station throat tracks, potentially impacting the adjacent William Mead public housing complex.

Regardless of the staff recommendation, all alternatives are to receive equal evaluation through the environmental impact report, which is not expected to be finalized until late 2019.  A final decision on all design options rests with Metro’s Board of Directors.

The run-through tracks, which would eliminate Union Station’s longtime stub-end layout by constructing a new rail viaduct over the 101 freeway trench, would allow for a 63 percent increase in regional rail service in the region by the year 2040.  The total number of daily trains through the station would increase from 172 to 280, with increased service on all Metrolink commuter rail lines, as well as on Amtrak’s popular Pacific Surfliner and long-distance routes.

Metro has already identified $950 million in funding for the run-through tracks, though funding for a new passenger concourse remains has yet to be found.

Construction of Link US is expected to occur in multiple phases, starting with utility work and other improvements in the Union Station throat and on the south side of the 101 freeway.  This would be followed by construction of the multi-track rail viaduct, as well as a northern loop track.

The expanded concourse would be built later by raising the rail yard to construct new platforms and tracks.