California Construction News staff writer
Three new Metro rail stations opened in downtown LA Friday, marking the completion of the Regional Connector Transit Project that combines the A, E and L Lines into two rail lines — the new A and E Lines. The new light rail connector combines the A (Blue), E (Expo), and L (Gold) lines into two rail lines at the core of Downtown Los Angeles.
Originally expected to open in 2020, work was delayed by the COVID pandemic and construction material supply issues.
Metro contracted with Regional Connector Constructors (RCC), a joint venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Brothers, Inc., to design and build the $1.8 billion Regional Connector.
The contractor achieved one of the best safety records of all Metro construction projects, with more than 7.7 million hours worked without any lost time due to injury or incident, “a testament to all the dedicated men and women working on this project representing one of the best safety records in the construction field.”
Metro also implemented a project labor agreement and construction careers policy to encourage construction employment and training opportunities. More than 10 percent of construction workers hired by Metro’s prime contractors on the project were from economically disadvantaged areas and 20 percent were hired as apprentices to start their careers in construction. PLA/CCP workers included 66 percent who were Latino, five percent African American and four percent female.
The complex project, which began in 2013, is unique among rail projects in the United States. The 1.9 miles of new track laid for the project will allow light rail trains to travel between Union Station and the 7th Street/Metro Center – a journey only Metro’s heavy rail lines could make until now. Bridging this gap allows Metro to merge the hook-shaped L (Gold) line with the A (Blue) and E (Expo) lines, creating two serpent-like train lines where there were once three. The Regional Connector includes three new underground stations:
- Little Tokyo/Arts District Station
- Historic Broadway Station
- Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill Station
“It’s hard to believe that what started out a decade ago with just drawings on a map is now a reality for Los Angeles County residents,” said Metro Board Chair Ara J. Najarian. “Angelenos can now easily travel across L.A. County and readily reach more Downtown L.A. locations via Metro Rail.”
Pre-construction activities started in December 2012, with the start of the relocation of utility pipes. Major heavy construction was scheduled to begin in 2013. The main contractor was issued a “Notice to Proceed” in early July 2014 and the official groundbreaking for heavy construction was held Sept. 30, 2014.
Most sections of the Regional Connector tunnel is built using the tunnel boring machine (TBM) construction method, though some sections (especially the locations of the three future subway rail stations) use the cut-and-cover construction method with an emphasis on maintaining as much road access as possible during construction.
By late 2017, one of the two tunnels had been completed; the second tunnel was completed in January 2018. Extra work and expense were required to work around century-old water and electric infrastructure beneath downtown. \\
Final testing started in early April.