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'Lessons learned' after millions in overruns hit downtown LA rail connector project

Metro broke ground on the Regional Connector on September 30, 2014. A new internal report shows the project has encountered unexpected costs and delays.
Steve Hymon/Metro
Metro broke ground on the Regional Connector on Sept. 30, 2014. A new internal report shows the project has encountered unexpected costs and delays.

Officials with the Los Angeles County transit agency say they’ve learned some lessons after running tens of millions of dollars over budget on a rail project meant to tie together several different rail lines with an underground tunnel through downtown.

Construction has just begun, but a Metropolitan Transportation Agency report says the agency already needs an extra $130 million, which would bring the total cost of the project to $1.5 billion. 

The overrun will cut deeply into a $93 million contingency fund that was supposed to last for five years. Officials are recommending that funds be transferred from other projects not yet under construction.

Additionally, the project might not be completed by the scheduled 2020 opening date, a delay that could threaten future federal funding, the report states.

The project hit unexpected delays in relocating aging utility lines where the underground tunnel will run. Officials said in their report that among the lessons learned are the need for "additional risk assessments beyond those normally conducted" and "increased early utility investigations with a corresponding budget increase."

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who chairs the Metro board said in a statement that the additional cost is "unfortunate" but not unexpected because the neighborhood is one of L.A.'s oldest and densest.

Ridley-Thomas said “among our lessons learned is the importance of establishing a higher contingency for a project like this that is being built in a highly populated urban environment."

The Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project, now 20 percent complete, will create a 1.9-mile light rail transit subway and underground trunk line connecting the Gold Line, Blue Line and Exposition Line.  

The project begins at the 7th/Metro Station and extends north to 2nd and Hope streets, turning east along 2nd, and ending at a rail junction on Alameda. Three new underground stations will be created at 2nd/Hope, 2nd/Broadway and 1st/Central.