One of the largest transit-dependent populations in the Los Angeles area now has a light rail link to the city's downtown. Almost 20 years in the making, the six-mile Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension, which opened in November 2009, runs from Union Station downtown to East Los Angeles.

The Eastside Extension connects to the city's Red Line and Purple Line subways and offers access to the entire 79-mile Metro Rail system, providing the Little Tokyo/Arts District, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles communities with public transit to such diverse destinations as Long Beach, Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, and downtown L.A.

Initially, the Eastside Extension was envisioned as a $1 billion underground extension of the city's Red Line. But, in 1998 Los Angeles County voters rejected a proposal to use sales tax revenue to fund additional expansions of the city's subway. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACTMA) team developed an alternative plan that combined a system built at grade for 4.2 miles and underground for 1.7 miles. The subway was most appropriate for the portion of the line running through Boyle Heights, an older neighborhood with many narrow streets.

Over nearly 20 years, Parsons Brinckerhoff provided planning, design and construction engineering services for the project. A review advisory committee of 27 community members met monthly for 15 years. It became the strongest advocate for the project, offering the designers insight on bus connections and pedestrian links to the stations.

The Eastside Extension includes eight stations, with two of them underground. The stations were designed to fit the context of the neighborhoods where they are located, with art created specifically for each station.

"The Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension will become the mobility centerpiece to an already vibrant community, as well as benefit the entire region by reducing traffic and air pollution and encouraging business development near and along the alignment," said Ara Najarian, chairman of the LACTMA Board of Trustees, during the dedication ceremony for the line.

"East Side residents now have access to jobs, schools, medical centers, shopping and cultural opportunities throughout our county," said L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Project: Light-rail transit service
Jurisdiction: Los Angeles
Agency: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)
Contractor: New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff
Date opened: Nov. 15, 2009
Cost: $898 million