Metro Looking Into Two Bikeway Connections to Union Station

Union Station aerial - by Gary Leonard via The Source. The L.A. River is the horizontal concrete structure near the top of the photo
Union Station aerial - by Gary Leonard via The Source. The L.A. River is the horizontal concrete structure near the top of the photo

Tomorrow the Metro board will vote on a motion – authored by boardmembers Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Hilda Solis, and Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian – that directs Metro to work towards developing the L.A. River bike/walk path Union Station connection as part of Metro’s larger Union Station run-through tracks project, called Link US.

Conceptual diagram for Union Station run-through tracks. Image via Metro staff presentation [PDF]
Conceptual diagram for Union Station run-through tracks

Link US is a Metro mega-project to convert Union Station’s stub-end tracks to more efficient run-through tracks. With environmental clearance completed and pre-construction work underway, Metro currently anticipates that an initial major phase of Link US construction will begin in FY22-23 (according to Metro’s preliminary budget staff report – see page 7). The $2.3+ billion dollar project will extend new rail tracks south of Union Station, connecting to tracks along the L.A. River.

Metro L.A. River path project map
Metro L.A. River path project map
Metro river path map with Union Station added - via Metro report
Metro river path map with Union Station added – via Metro report

Metro is also nearing the final planning stages for its smaller L.A. River path project that will close the about-eight-mile river bikeway gap through downtown L.A. and the city of Vernon, completing a thirty-plus-mile continuous bikeway from Griffith Park to Long Beach. The central L.A. River path project will cost around $365 million (that 2016 estimate is from Metro’s Measure M sales tax plan).  The river path project is not as far along as Link US is, with the path design currently being finalized as part of the project’s environmental clearance.

Both projects will bridge from Union Station to the L.A. River, so they should dovetail nicely. Right?

(Assuming Metro doesn’t just see bicyclists as a distant afterthought – like they did at Rosa Parks Station, North Hollywood’s inspired urban village, Rosecrans/Marquardt, Regional Connector, Expo rail, Van Nuys rail, NoHo-Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit, and hundreds of Highway Program projects… but that’s another story, right?)

Metro does appear to have been proactive about synergy between the two Union Station projects. The motion notes that:

As Metro’s Link US and the L.A. River Path projects each advanced, a leading concept emerged to connect Union Station to the River Path via a direct, off-street connector running generally alongside the Link US rail flyover and with one potential intermediate access point in the Arts District. This connector was environmentally cleared as a Link US design option and, by late 2020, Metro had completed three promising design concepts. The connector is also included as an option in Metro’s forthcoming Link US Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) contract. Thanks to this foresight and early action, the portion of the connector within and adjacent to the Link US project footprint has the potential to be efficiently constructed as part of Link US so long as funding is identified.

The river path funding was approved in Measure M, though a portion of it may need to be accelerated. If that funding is not sufficient, Metro is pretty flush with sales tax revenue, plus COVID stimulus and possible federal stimulus and California surplus monies. The funding isn’t a trivial hurdle, but it’s not a bad time to round up a few million dollars for a key central L.A. connection like this.

Metro river path concept rendering - upstream of Union Station - via Metro report
Metro river path conceptual rendering – upstream of Union Station – via Metro report

The river path connection would be immediately east of Union Station. Metro is also looking to close a bikeway gap immediately south of Union Station.

Alameda Esplanade gap - via Metro staff report
Alameda Esplanade gap – via Metro staff report

In January, the board approved proceeding with a study to determine how to connect two walk/bike paths (“esplanades”) along Alameda Street [staff report].

Metro will soon begin construction on a wide walk/bike sidewalk area as part of its watered-down Union Station forecourt project. That facility is along Alameda Street between César E Chávez Avenue and the 101 Freeway.

Alameda Esplanade construction this month. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Alameda Esplanade construction earlier this month. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Just south of the 101 Metro is currently building its Alameda Esplanade as part of Little Tokyo/Arts District Eastside Access Improvements coinciding with Regional Connector construction.

Metro approved a $1.1 million study to assess alternatives for connecting the two esplanades across the 101 Freeway. The study is in conjunction with Caltrans and the city of Los Angeles – and could result in some kind of lid over a portion of the canyon-like 101 Freeway. Additional detail on this item at the Metro staff report and at Urbanize.

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