Trains on Metrolink will be off for four days
The Metrolink train system, a crucial component of Southern California’s transportation network, recently announced a four-day shutdown from December 26 to December 29, 2023. This closure, affecting the entire seven-line, five-county system, is essential for the installation of a new signal system and other upgrades.
This planned suspension will also include the San Bernardino County’s Arrow service. The primary aim is to implement the L.A. Union Station Modernization project, which will update track and signal systems at the entry point to Union Station to improve operational throughput and reliability.
The Necessity of Upgrades
The modernization of Los Angeles Union Station is a critical aspect of this shutdown. The station’s current reliance on outdated relay technology from the 1930s limits its capacity and operational efficiency.
The new microprocessor-driven signal system will increase capacity during arrivals and departures, thereby reducing delays and enhancing safety throughout the heavily trafficked train corridor. This initiative is part of the final stages of a three-year modernization project at Union Station, which connects six of Metrolink’s lines.
Broader Infrastructure Improvements
Beyond Union Station, the shutdown will facilitate major maintenance and repair projects across multiple Metrolink lines. Notably, old and outdated rail on the Antelope Valley Line will be replaced, addressing the decreased speeds on its winding path.
Additionally, several culverts along the San Bernardino Line will be replaced to prevent flash flooding. These maintenance and improvement projects are part of Southern California’s extensive efforts to modernize public transportation services ahead of major upcoming events like the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games, as well as the World Rugby Championships in 2031 and 2033.
Financial Aspects and Future Projects
Metrolink has secured significant funding for its modernization efforts. The transit agency has acquired $2.4 billion in funding for its various Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion (SCORE) projects, though the total cost of the improvements is estimated to be around $10 billion.
Eleven SCORE projects are currently underway, with the Union Station improvements and a second project expected to be completed in 2023. This comprehensive initiative includes work on the Antelope Valley and Ventura County lines at the Burbank Junction, which is set to be completed early next year and will allow for faster speeds through the area.
Impact of the Shutdown
The timing of the Metrolink shutdown is strategic, as it coincides with historically low ridership due to the holiday season, school closures, and many employers offering time off. Metrolink will not provide alternative transportation during this period, but partner agencies, including Amtrak, will continue to operate. The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, for instance, will run on a modified schedule, bypassing Union Station on tracks not affected by the Metrolink closure.
The Metrolink shutdown, while temporarily disrupting regular train service, is a crucial step towards enhancing the safety, reliability, and efficiency of Southern California’s commuter rail system. These upgrades are not only essential for everyday commuters but also for preparing the region’s transportation infrastructure for upcoming international events.
The careful planning and significant investment in these projects underscore the commitment to improving public transportation in Los Angeles County and the broader Southern California region.