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Downtown LA Light Rail Loop Probably Won't Open By May 2021

Downtown's $1.4-billion, underground Regional Connector light rail project will one day connect the Expo, Blue, and Gold Lines and allow for one-seat rides between, say, Long Beach and Azusa or Santa Monica and East LA. But while it's underway, it's racking up extra costs and could be facing a delay of about six months or more, says the LA Times (it's scheduled to open waaay out in 2021). Moving underground electrical wires and similar utilities has already taken a huge bite out of the $92.7 million set aside for "unexpected cost increases"; about half of that money has been used up (pre-construction work began in 2012 and the line officially broke ground last year); the total amount was supposed to last five years.

The cost overages might also push the project's completion date back by six months or more, says the Metro staff report that highlights the overages. Plenty of other Metro projects (on both rail and freeways) have gone overbudget lately too. The Expo Line's first phase to Culver City was originally billed as a $640-million rail line, but ended up costing $978 million. But some experts say that such mounting expenses so early on in the project "do not bode well" for the Regional Connector, which hasn't even started the tunneling part of the process yet.

When locking down federal funding, Metro agreed to have the Regional Connector in operation by the end of May 2021, a date chosen because it would give Metro "wiggle room" to fix unexpected delays. But with projected delays, it's possible that Metro would miss that deadline and possibly endanger those sweet federal funds, the report says. A Metro rep said that the agency doesn't think there will be any issues with the federal funds, and that even mentioning the possibility in the report was only "in the spirit of full disclosure."

The Metro staff report says that next steps include talking to the feds and performing a "detailed risk assessment" that will identify possible future expenses and holdups with the project. The report also says it's possible that the connector could open as much as 10 months late, but if they raise $130 million towards replenishing that reserve fund that's supposed to last for five years, the delays would be reduced. The review also raises the possibility that, by 2018, Metro will have to find "additional funding sources" for the Regional Connector.
· Costs and delays mount for downtown L.A. subway link [LAT]
· Work Officially Begins on the Downtown Subway Line [Curbed LA]