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Metro delays construction in Little Tokyo for the holidays

A Metro light rail train approaches the Little Tokyo stop of the Gold Line. One version of the Regional Connector plan proposes demolishing one of these tracks in order to build the connection under the station.
Roger Rudick/KPCC
In this file photo, a Metro light rail train approaches the Little Tokyo stop of the Gold Line.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has delayed the closure of the Little Tokyo/District Gold Line Station until January.

Construction of the Regional Connecter Transit Project at the intersection of First Street and Alameda Avenue was set to begin Friday at 9 p.m. The construction, which will close the station and multiple streets, is expected to take three months.

Metro’s board of directors approved the postponement Thursday, with the Little Tokyo Business Association agreeing not to file a court challenge to the delayed closures. The association had intended to challenge the scheduled closures because of the impacts to business during the holidays, including the culturally important New Year's Day celebrations.

The previous decision to begin construction on Dec. 4 was intended to finish all work in Little Tokyo in time for the March 5 start date of the Metro Gold Line Foothill extension. It will eventually give the area a fully functional light rail system from Azusa to East L.A., according to Metro.

The latest delay will add about a month to the overall rail connector project schedule. But Pauletta Tonilas, Metro chief communications officer, said agency plans to work with its contractor to make up the time lost and keep the transit project on schedule for a 2012 opening. 

Metro will also attempt to keep additional costs from the latest delay in check over the life of the project, Tonilas said. The Metro board recently, and reluctantly, approved an additional $132 million to cover unanticipated project delays in relocating aging underground utility lines, bringing the total cost of the rail connector project to $1.5 billion.

Metro is leaning toward a Jan. 8 or 9 date when construction in Little Tokyo might begin, but that date is a moving target, Tonilas said.

When construction does start, bus service linking Union Station and the Pico/Aliso Gold Line Station through the area will be provided. To encourage drivers to explore Little Tokyo, Metro will also sponsor a parking validation program that would provide two hours of free parking at three locations along the route. To help business owners affected by the construction, the agency started a Business Interruption Fund as well.

The traffic impacts of the construction, according to Metro, include:

The detours, according to Metro, include:

This story has been updated.