Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Union Station Bus Platform to Begin Construction in April

The relocated Silver Line bus station (All Images: Metro)

According to a memo from an upcoming meeting of Metro's Service Councils, construction will begin in April on a new center-median bus platform linking the El Monte Busway to Union Station's Patsaouras Transit Plaza.

The $31 million project, funded in part by a discretionary grant from the Federal Transit Administration, will improve vertical and horizontal pedestrian circulation within the historic transportation hub.  Currently, passengers on Metro's Silver Line buses must disembark on Alameda Street, before crossing a freeway on-ramp and walking a quarter-mile to access trains and buses at Union Station.  The relocated bus platform, situated directly above Vignes Street, will shorten transfer times by providing a dedicated passageway to Union Station's East Portal.

Besides its obvious benefits for transit passengers on the El Monte Busway, the project also includes a stunning "Wind Bridge," designed by California artist Ned Kahn.  The 500-foot long structure will be adorned with perforated aluminum panels, arranged to "move with the wind, resulting in complex rippling patterns of light and shade created by sunlight penetrating in between the two layers of perforated metal."

The new bus platform, scheduled to open in October 2016, is a prelude to much larger changes in store for the 75-year-old rail terminal.  Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 on the $350 million Southern California Regional Interconnector Project (SCRIP), which will add new run-through tracks to Union Station's stub-end rail yard.  The new track layout is expected to shave travel times by 15 to 20 minutes and increase the station's capacity up to 50%.

These upgrades will occur simultaneously with the enaction of the new Union Station Master Plan, which was approved by the Metro Board in October 2014.  In the near term future, Metro will implement a variety of streetscape and transit stop improvements to enhance the station's connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood.  Most notably, a surface parking which fronts the historic station building along Alameda Street is slated for conversion to a public plaza.

In the more distant future, the Master Plan calls for up to 3.25 million square feet of development on the Union Station property, as well as the expansion and rearrangement of many of its existing facilities.  This would include the construction of a new multi-modal concourse to replace the station's utilitarian pedestrian access tunnel, as well as the relocation of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza to the western side of the property.

A conceptual rendering portraying a full build-out of the Union Station Master Plan and other upgrades