Metro Plans Blue Line Closures in 2019
Los Angeles Downtown News
By Nicholas Slayton
April 10, 2018

DTLA – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning a major renovation of its oldest rail line. The Blue Line, which links Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, will undergo repairs that require extensive shutdowns for a total of eight months, starting in January 2019.

The work will take place in two phases, with a halt in service for the portion of the line that passes through South Park and the Financial District beginning next spring.

The overhaul of the 22-mile line is budgeted at $300 million, and will install an array of new rail and infrastructure systems. It is part of Metro’s $1.2 billion “New Blue” modernization effort that began in 2014.

Starting in January, the Blue Line will be closed for four months between downtown Long Beach and the Compton Metro station. The second phase will shutter the line between 103rd St. and the Seventh Street/Metro Center station in the Financial District, according to Jose Ubaldo, a spokesman for Metro. The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station in the middle of the line will be closed for the entire duration.

The work involves infrastructure improvements such as replacing old rail and power lines. Signals will also be updated.

Although inconvenient for some commuters, Metro is going this route to save time in the long run. According to the transit agency, the work could either be done in a single eight-month period with the two extended closures, or over the course of three years, with a series of shorter shutdowns to various parts of the line.

Metro expects the work to impact traffic along the Blue Line route, Ubaldo said, but the agency plans to work with cities and L.A. County to minimize the effects. During the construction, Metro will provide replacement service for Blue Line riders between the stations that are shut down, Ubaldo said. The exact details are still being finalized, but initial plans call for buses to run between individual stations, as well as direct shuttles between Downtown and Long Beach during rush hour.

The Blue Line, which opened in 1990, carries approximately 73,000 people a day, according to Metro. The improvements are being done to bring the nearly 30-year-old line on par with the other rail lines Metro operates, and to alleviate years of wear and tear.

Although work will not start for eight months, Downtowners are already bracing for the impacts. Ellen Riotto, executive director of the South Park Business Improvement District, acknowledged that the construction is expected to increase traffic and cause headaches. Still, she noted that it’s a necessity.

“The most important part of this decision is that Metro recognizes that transformational improvements to infrastructure are necessary,” Riotto said. “It’s nice to see Metro looking beyond superficial improvements and approaching our inadequate infrastructure with the appropriate improvements.”

Riotto added that the community is looking at other improvements that will complement the Blue Line work. The South Park BID is in the process of updating signage and pedestrian access to the Blue Line’s Pico Station stop, which provides access to Staples Center, L.A. Live and the Convention Center.

At Downtown Blue Line stops last week, many riders were surprised to hear about the upcoming closures and the extent of the work. At the Seventh Street/Metro Center station, Nakia Sims said the repairs make sense, but the length of the construction is unexpected. She said she rides the Blue Line between Long Beach and Downtown, and expects there will be problem for commuters like her who rely on the line.

At the Pico Station in South Park, Metro rider Nick Pleis watched morning commuters board a Blue Line train and said he had heard of the planned closures, and sympathizes with those who will be affected.

“It sucks for them,” Pleis said. “If they ever shut down the Expo Line the same way they’re doing the Blue Line, it would hurt my job significantly.”

Riotto said that once the closures start, it will take time for the effects to ripple through community businesses and people’s lives. She added that the momentum and drive on Metro’s part to do the work in one relatively compact period is encouraging.

More information on the Blue Line improvements is at thesource.metro.net.