Eyeing L.A.'s Olympic bid, Metro seeks to accelerate two rail projects

Citing L.A.'s quest to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles County transportation officials are seeking to fast-track two of Metro's most anticipated rail projects.

In letters sent Tuesday and obtained by The Times, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority formally asked to join a Federal Transit Administration pilot program that could accelerate construction on a subway to the Westside and a rail connection to Los Angeles International Airport.

With federal approval, Metro would follow an "extremely aggressive" schedule to finish the Purple Line subway extension and the LAX train station and people-mover by 2024, Metro Chief Executive Phillip Washington wrote.

The $2.3-billion Purple Line will connect downtown with West Los Angeles. Construction is currently planned in phases: first, from its current terminus in Koreatown to Mid-Wilshire, slated for 2024; then, to Century City in 2025; and finally to the Department of Veterans Affairs' campus in West L.A. in 2036.

The accelerated plan would see concurrent construction on all three phases. Finishing the project a decade ahead of schedule would "reduce construction costs, reduce construction impacts to dense urban centers, and expedite transportation benefits to the region," Washington wrote.

The Purple Line would be crucial to the success of the Olympics, carrying thousands of international visitors to UCLA's campus to see events such as water polo, basketball and field hockey, he wrote.

Los Angeles is the U.S. candidate to win the Olympic bid, stepping in for the original choice, Boston, which withdrew amid cost concerns. The host city will be chosen in 2017. Paris and Rome are considered the main competitors for final selection.

Winning the Olympic bid is often a catalyst for new infrastructure projects. Most recently in the U.S., when Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995, the city expedited two light-rail lines, which opened in 1999 and 2001.

Passenger service for the Purple Line would begin May 31, 2024, according to a draft schedule included in the letter. The Los Angeles bid proposes an Olympic start date six weeks later.

Metro hopes to fund the third phase of the Purple Line through a $1-billion federal grant and $525 million in local taxpayer revenue, the letter said.

The $330-million train to LAX is currently scheduled to open in 2028. The "people mover" will probably resemble the terminal trains in use at other major U.S. airports, including in San Francisco and Denver.

As planned, the train will run from the LAX terminal area to a consolidated car-rental facility, a ground transportation hub and a station on the Crenshaw Line at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard. That north-south rail line, which will connect the Mid-City Expo Line to the South Bay Green Line, is slated to open in 2019.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


6:00 p.m.: This post was updated with background about a similar transit requests made by past Olympic host Salt Lake City.

This story was first published at 4:55 p.m.