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When Will Metro Move the Regional Connector? Maybe This Month…

Last week, the Metro Board of Directors decided to push a motion to approve the final environmental documents for the Regional Connector until April so that negotiations between top Metro staff and representatives of the Financial District could continue negotiations over what kind of tunneling method will be used to complete the below-ground connector through the District.

Sources familiar with the negotiations describe a productive relationship between the Financial District Representatives and Metro brass.  At last week's Board Meeting, staff did provide a quick update to the Metro Board that "one of the methods discussed is using tunnel boring machines to go as far south as 5th Street, instead of 4th Street, to reduce the part of Flower where cut-and-cover methods would be used."  This compromise could meet both of the major concerns that changes to the planned environmental documents would have at this late date: that a change could preclude a future station at 5th and Flower coveted by the District and that a change could require a massive re-write of the environmental documents requiring a new public process and months of delay.

While nothing is set in stone yet, it appears that what once appeared to be a major hurdle for the project that is considered by many a transit advocate as the "most important project in the region," might see only a couple of months of delay due to the changes needed to mollify the well-connected Financial District.

But the delay caused by the ongoing negotiations has brought the project's momentum to a halt.  The "Little Tokyo Leadership Council" that will work with Metro to minimize impacts of the project construction in their community and will provide feedback in the station design remains unformed.  Last week The Source published renderings of what stations could look like for the Westside Subway, but station design meetings for the connector haven't been scheduled.  While Metro can report that there are some initial drawings for Regional Connector stations, they aren't ready for public viewing yet.  Neither of these needed steps, the formation of the leadership council and the planning for station design, can happen until after the environmental documents are certified.

Another unanswered question is who will be doing this outreach?  In February, the Metro Board unexpectedly declined to renew the contract of The Robert Group, the outreach team that saw the Connector this far.  While some funds remain for some outreach for the station review meetings, the Metro Board took no action to insure that when the environmental documents are finally certified that the outreach to continue the process moves smoothly and quickly forward.

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