The entire Metrolink regional commuter rail system will be shut down at the end of December for four days. You have the Olympics to thank for that.
The agency announced a systemwide shutdown — all seven lines plus the Arrow service, connecting downtown San Bernardino to Redlands — from Dec. 26, a Tuesday, through Friday the 29th for repairs, cleaning and upgrades.
Regular train service is scheduled to resume on Dec. 30, a Saturday. This planned work will help "provide safer, more efficient service," according to Metrolink, which is thinking ahead to big-time international events Los Angeles is hosting including the 2028 Olympics. There's also the accompanying Paralympics and the 2026 World Cup (perhaps), not to mention the Superbowl.
December's shutdown culminates a three-year project to modernize the system's central hub, Union Station, said Justin Fornelli, Metrolink's chief of program delivery, in a news release.
The work includes replacing signal relay technology that is about as old as Union Station itself. The update is a safety boost and will allow Metrolink to run multiple trains on multiple tracks as they enter and depart Union Station, the agency says.
Union Station opened with a "massive parade down Alameda Street" on May 3, 1939, according to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Metrolink began 53 years later, on Oct. 26,1992, offering three routes, the Ventura County Line, the San Bernardino Line and the Santa Clarita Line. Today, Metrolink's seven lines plus the passenger rail service Arrow all have connections to Union Station and Metro subway and light rail — services that should be essential to Angelenos, athletes and tourists during the upcoming Olympics, as well as other events.
Los Angeles held the Summer Olympics at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984, when 6,829 athletes from 140 countries competed. A total 650,000 visiting athletes and spectators made their way around Los Angeles.
The next Los Angeles Olympics is expected to more than double the number of participating athletes, at 15,000, and the crowds of spectators are also expected to balloon.
Metrolink's improvements are funded by the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion program.
Union Station will undergo additional maintenance and facelift projects during the shutdown — restoring concrete platforms, renewing paint, cleaning canopies and gutters, and performing tuneups on high-voltage sources to reduce the possibility of power outages.
On the Antelope Valley Line, Metrolink will replace rail that's reached the end of its service life; the older rail on the curvy route necessitate "slow orders," which caused passenger delays. The San Bernardino Line will see new culverts for diverting rainwater and storm runoff underneath the tracks to prevent flash flooding.
During the four-day service outage, Metrolink is not providing any alternative forms of transportation. It has a list of some suggested options. The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will continue to run Dec. 26-29 on a modified schedule. Pacific Surfliner trains will not be affected by the Metrolink service suspension.
"As a leader of transportation here in Southern California, we're excited that we will be upgrading our signal system," Jeanette Flores, Metrolink assistant director of public affairs, told The Times. "We are working on [projects] across multiple lines to deliver the safest, most reliable passenger rail experience for our community. So this is an exciting time for us and we're very blessed that we have great community support."
Flores reminds people to take advantage of free train rides to all students when the four-day suspension has been lifted. "Students can ride for free in any of our trains within our system," she noted. "We're trying to encourage the next generation of riders to prioritize the environment, get off the freeways and take our ... very clean system."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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