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New North Hollywood underpass connects Metro's Red, Orange lines

Until now, people have had to transfer between the Red and Orange lines at street level, using Lankershim Boulevard, Los Angeles Metro's Dave Sotero tells KPCC. Now, a new pedestrian underpass is connecting the lines. The underpass opened Monday.

With 23,000 cars on that street per day, Sotero says it poses challenges for commuters crossing the street, while the new underpass will be both faster and safer.

Metro described the safety issues in a press release:

The underpass will also ease congestion for drivers on Lankershim, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says in a press release.

"Metro’s new tunnel reduces the main point of conflict between high-volume vehicular traffic and transit riders, cuts their travel times and adds capacity to our busy Red and Orange Line stations," Metro Board Chair John Fasana says in a press release.

The release also says the underpass means shorter traffic signals, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to less vehicle idling at the intersection.

Construction on the underpass began in 2014, and with the help of a $10 million federal matching grant, Metro has now completed the $22 million project. Sotero describes the tunnel as "very robust."

"It looks like a subway station entrance on the Orange Line side," Sotero says. "Once you're inside the tunnel, you have all the amenities you would expect from a rail station, including gates, ticket vending machines, two elevators, passenger information monitors and other amenities."

The Red and Orange lines are the two busiest transit lines in the San Fernando Valley, Sotero says. He explained how they are now connected.

"What we've done is connect the mezzanine level of the Red Line directly across Lankershim Boulevard, and people will come up on the Orange Line station platform. It's going to save them four to five minutes of time, and so the next time people are in the North Hollywood area, I would encourage them to take this new pedestrian tunnel, because it's very nicely designed," Sotero says.

The underpass also has a lot of capacity for commuters to take advantage of, Sotero says.

Metro has tackled a couple of connecting projects this year — in April, they opened a pedestrian bridge at Universal City connecting the Red Line with the Universal Studios shuttle stop across the street.

"So both of these efforts are the latest on Metro's behalf to create safer connections for our transit customers to use our system to get where they need to go safely and more efficiently," Sotero says.

There are no other pedestrian projects in Metro's immediate future plans, Sotero says — but they do have plans for development in North Hollywood.

"North Hollywood is continuing to be a very revitalized region. We're going to be shortly opening up the Lankershim Depot to the public. That'll be the first public use of this historic transit depot for several decades. We're also planning joint development in North Hollywood to provide additional housing and retail opportunities. So this particular underpass, this pedestrian tunnel, is really going to be useful and gives us a hedge on the future demand that we're going to have in North Hollywood," Sotero says.

What else is next for Metro? They approved a sales tax measure for the November ballot to fund more than $120 billion in rail and road projects, according to a press release, including a subway line between the San Fernando Valley and LAX.