This Thursday, the subway board is expected to give the go-ahead for an initial phase of pre-construction for the Union Station walkways. The long-awaited and much-needed project, called “Link US,” will modernize Union Station to create efficiencies for Metrolink and Amtrak, and prepare for future high-speed rail.
Since its opening in 1939, Union Station has operated with inefficient stub tracks, where trains head into the station and then have to reverse to exit. Metro estimates that solving this problem through Link US will increase Union Station’s capacity (from 180 to 278 trains per day) and reduce train dwell times (from twenty to five minutes).
The Link US improvements are an expensive megaproject: they include new bridge structures over and along Highway 101 and new railroad tracks in and along a historic structure (which sits atop sensitive archaeological resources ), all to be built while keeping trains currently in service.
Metro’s Board of Directors approved Link US environmental studies (under the California Environmental Quality Act – CEQA) in 2019, opting for a somewhat reduced project scope that reduced an estimated cost of $3 billion to the current estimate of $2.3 billion.
The Link US project is divided into several phases. The initial funded Phase A includes the construction of the bridge over Highway 101 and two initial crossing lanes. A future phase B, not yet funded, includes the elevation of the main platform area, the construction of new interior concourse areas and the addition of additional passageways.
As the crossing tracks will benefit the planned high-speed rail, the CA High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA) is a financial partner in the project, contributing $423 million. According to Metro staff reportadditional funding for the project comes from the Transit Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP – $227 million), State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP – $61 million), local funds Measure R Commuter Rail Funds ($51 million) , a CAHSRA planning grant ($19 million), and a few other smaller sources.
This week’s board update would approve terms for CAHSRA’s $423 million funding, as well as a $298 million “partial preconstruction phase” project budget.
The partial pre-construction phase would finalize the design and engineering through a construction management/general contractor (CMGC) delivery process, as well as complete real estate acquisitions across from Union Station ( south of Highway 101).
Metro’s schedule shows the completion of federal environmental studies (under the National Environmental Policy Act – NEPA) this summer, with full construction expected to start in late 2023.
Critical Link US upgrades are just one of the ways CAHSRA is supporting rail infrastructure improvements in LA County to prepare for the eventual arrival of the state’s high-speed rail system. which has over a hundred miles under construction in the central valley. Some anti-bullet-train State Assembly Democrats, including Anthony Rendon and Laura Friedman point to supposed lack of CAHSRA investment in Southern California rail as a pretext to refuse and delay the financing of the high-speed train. But CAHSRA is already supporting many rail projects in LA County – including ongoing grade separation construction at Rosecrans-Marquardt in Santa Fe Springs, planned US Link construction at Union Station, support for d other metro rail projects (including contribute funds to the Regional Connector Metro), and planning support for additional projects such as the Doran Street and Broadway/Brazil level separation project.
The Metro Board of Directors will meet this Thursday at 10 a.m. to vote on Link US, as well as the FY23 budget, the cancellation of the 710 Freeway widening, and more. Find it full agenda and staff reports to Subway Board Webpage.