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Metro is considering a temporary shutdown of its workhorse Blue Line to allow for a phased rebuild of the 22-mile rail passenger rail corridor between Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to Citizen's Advisory Council member Hank Fung.

The project, officially announced today at a meeting of the Metro Board's System Safety, Security and Operations Committee, has been rumored for months.  According to a staff report, the project calls for a four-month closure of the Blue Line's southern segment between Downtown Long Beach and Compton, followed by a second four-month shut down of its northern segment between 103rd Street and 7th Street/Metro Center Station in Downtown Los Angeles.  The Rosa Parks/Willowbrook Station, which provides transfers between the Blue and Green Lines, would be closed for the entire eight-month period as it undergoes a $66-million renovation.

The closures would begin in January 2019, with full operations expected to resume in October 2019 - shortly ahead of the opening date of the new Crenshaw/LAX Line.

During the closure, service would be replaced by shuttle buses - with express and rapid service during peak hours - likely along the Silver Line right-of-way.  Off-peak travel times could increase by 50 to 100 percent during the closure, according to Fung.  However, the shuttle buses would likely be priced comparably to the Blue Line's $1.75 one-way fare, less than the pricier Silver Line.

Approximately $300 million would be spent on the project, inclusive of the rebuild of Willowbrook Station.

The nearly 30-year-old Blue Line is the oldest rail line in Metro's network and also among the busiest, serving more than 70,000 weekday passengers.  Nonetheless, it has been plagued by maintenance delays and sagging ridership in recent years, mirroring the struggles of transit systems nationwide.  In an effort to reverse declining patronage, Metro has considered a number of strategies in recent years.

In 2016, with the Blue Line already in the midst of a $1.2-billion upgrade, Metro proposed a new aerial stop at Wardlow Street that would replace an existing at-grade station, as well as a review of all of the Blue Line's existing street-level crossings.

Improved signal synchronization in Long Beach is also expected to improve travel times, and some have even floated the possibility of introducing express service to a portion of the corridor.

Last year, a shared segment of track with the Expo Line through Downtown Los Angeles was widely identified as the source of many of the Blue Line's delays, with at-grade crossings allowing for numerous collisions with private automobiles.  Metro has since proposed several strategies for grade separation between the junction of the two lines at Washington Boulevard and Flower Streets and Pico Station.  The project has been marked as one of 28 projects that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hopes to see completed prior to the 2028 Summer Olympics, although an environmental study for the proposed grade separations has not been completed, nor has funding been identified.

In the interim, less costly measures have been taken to improve the sluggish section along Flower Street, most notably a new crossing gate which prevents illegal left turns at an on-ramp to the Santa Monica Freeway.

Through various improvements, Metro hopes to eventually cut scheduled end-to-end travel times between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Long Beach by 10 minutes - reducing the current 58-minute trip to 48 minutes.

The Blue Line in Downtown Long Beach. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
The Blue Line route via Metro.