- Written by Ken Alpern
29 Apr 2011
MOVING LA - While there will be debates and even legal/political battles over the future east-west Expo and Downtown Light Rail Lines, the spotlight is being shifted to a future north-south rail line that has the potential to link the South Bay and Mid-City regions to each other and to farflung portions of LA county such as Norwalk, LAX, Downtown…and even the future Wilshire Subway.
In my previous CityWatch article addressing the Green Line (link), I noted that the Metro Green Line, is an east-west line east of Aviation/Imperial station, and is north-south to the west of that station (which is the currently the indirect bus link to LAX). What I failed to mention is that the line is elevated or in the median of the I-105 freeway, and is the fastest light rail line in the nation.
It also enjoys up to 40,000 riders a day, far more than anticipated when the first, painfully-incomplete-but-absolutely-essential, portion of the Green Line, was built with a route that came roughly two miles short of the South Bay Galleria, LAX and the Norwalk Metrolink station (and the Metrolink/Amtrak network).
So it was always meant to be built in steps, and the “Green Gaps” of LAX, Norwalk and the South Bay Galleria have yet to be completed. Furthermore, the original configuration of the line, which was actually meant to access LAX via a LAX PeopleMover link at either Aviation/Imperial and/or Century/Aviation station and then proceed on up the Lincoln Blvd. corridor to Marina Del Rey (the North Coast Green Line Extension) remains on the drawing boards to this day.
What we DO have, though, are three Green Line extensions—remember, the Green Line was always meant to be extended in steps because it serves so many destinations throughout the entire southern half of L.A. County—that are funded by Measure R.
The three Green Line extensions are the South Bay Green Line Extension, the Green Line to LAX, and the Crenshaw/LAX Line projects. Depending on how they’re funded, planned and routed, they might all create a huge north-south rail line from the South Bay to LAX to Inglewood to the Crenshaw Corridor to the Expo Line.
It is NOT a coincidence that they are all planned to share a single rail yard, currently proposed by Metro to be located at Arbor Vitae and Bellanca (link), because in a sense they will all be one big line (who knows whether it’ll be Green, Rose, or some other name/color).
Unfortunately, the project requires $500 million to go as far as Torrance, but there is a planned Minimum Operable Segment that can be funded by the $272 million provided by Measure R that will extend it to the Redondo Beach Regional Transit Center and the adjacent South Bay Galleria Mall. Although there is some local opposition by some Lawndale residents (LINK), this rail-right-of-way and project is and will be owned by all of us.
This project has as its primary political proponent one County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who inherited this project from his predecessor, Yvonne Braithewaite Burke, but as I mentioned in a previous article (link), this project is much greater than the redevelopment project for the Crenshaw Corridor for which it was originally envisioned (and worthy of every penny of the $1.7 billion devoted to the project).
As Supervisor Ridley-Thomas wrote in a responding (and rather consensus-building and diplomatic) article (link), this Crenshaw/LAX Corridor project has extraordinary potential to create enormous economic benefits and link the entire county of Los Angeles. Should it extend to the Wilshire Corridor one day, as already planned (but unfortunately not funded), ridership would swell to over 100,000 riders a day.
Heck, the combined Crenshaw/LAX/South Bay Green Line might get that kind of ridership just by its links to LAX and the Expo Line alone, so the consensus-building, diplomatic approach of Ridley-Thomas is needed more than ever.
Unfortunately, the expenses are enormous, and the Federal Aviation Administration-mandated trench east of LAX between Aviation/Imperial and Century/Aviation Green Line stations might swallow up the entire “Green Line to LAX Extension” budget of $250 million or so because trenches are very, very expensive—and the once-budgeted $80 million for this trench has morphed into $200 million.
Furthermore, the optional stations at Leimert Park and the elevated Manchester/Aviation station don’t appear to be “optional” so much as key betterments to the project that will virtually make this the north-south equivalent of both the Expo and Wilshire Subway lines…but also add to the expense.
It’s very uncertain as to whether Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will be successful in procuring the extra funding to have a deep-boring machine go underground through long lengths of Crenshaw Blvd. when Metro has proposed to build it much cheaper at ground level (but at-grade and therefore slowed a bit because of intersections with traffic).
What is certain, though, is that funds beyond Measure R will be needed to achieve the entire wish list for the Crenshaw/LAX and South Bay Green Line Extensions. Just as we might lose a key station of the Downtown Light Rail Connector at 5th/Flower when Metro opted to completely put that project underground (a smart move, overall, despite the sacrifice), we risk losing stations and features of the Crenshaw/LAX Corridor Project by asking for more than what’s budgeted.
Perhaps we need to turn again to developers and landowners, who do a great job in destroying what’s left of our open spaces (link), but probably need to be incentivized to turn towards redevelopment projects in our urban core as our city’s population goes down. (Link)
We don’t need to smash Mother Nature, we don’t need to ruin our neighborhoods and we don’t need to hurt our quality of life as we use projects like the Green Line, with all of its links and extensions, to improve our city’s and county’s future.
With regards to the economic, environmental and quality of life benefits the Green and Crenshaw/LAX projects have to offer, it’s time to make the Green Line a truly “Green” Line with respect to jobs, the environment and our region’s future.
Vol 9 Issue 34
Pub: Apr 29, 2011