Earlier today the Metro Board of Directors unanimously approved the light rail alternative for the Crenshaw Corridor and agreed to study making the light rail run underground for a dozen blocks between 48th and 59th street over the plans of the Metro staff. According to a press release, "The light rail alternative will be 8.5 miles in length from the Metro Green Line Aviation Station to the Expo Line, now under construction, at Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards, with a travel time estimated at 20 minutes. There will be seven new stations plus an option for one more. The final Environment Impact Study/Environment Impact Report could be ready by the end of 2010, with the line scheduled to open in 2018."
The vote today followed a mobilization of the community activists for the light rail option, as opposed to the BRT option, since alternatives for the line were first being discussed. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has been actively pushing for the light rail option since his election last year and today’s vote can only be construed as a victory for his efforts. However, just because the underground alignment is being studied doesn’t mean that it will be in the final design, but it would head off another prolonged battle between Metro and the South L.A. Community over a light rail line.
The Crenshaw Corridor Light Rail line wasn’t the only rail line to move forward. The Board also voted to move forward with an extension of Metro Green Line rail service to the proposed Torrance Regional Transit Center in the South Bay area of the region. The study of bringing transit to the twenty six mile freight rail corridor is in a much earlier phase than the Crenshaw Corridor. At this point there is no "opening" date for the project.
The Board also voted to move forward on quad gates for segments of the Gold Line Eastside Extension. After Metro staff and Board members swore up and down that the line was safe when it opened last month, a car was hit by a light rail car over Thanksgiving weekend and two girls walked into cars claiming they were confused by the crossing signals.
After listening to a parade of speakers berate the Board for pushing the Gold Line Eastside Extension’s opening before all safety precautions could be taken, Mayor Villaraigosa chimed in wondering why a full Environmental Impact Review was necessary just to install barrier gates. It turns out the quad gates would cause several intersections to get a failing grade because of the traffic congestion that it would create.
However, Villaraigosa, Councilman Jose Huizar and Supervisor Gloria Molina devised a plan to work on a declaration of "no significant impact" for the gate installation that could take less time than an EIR. Just in case the environmental researchers reach the conclusion that there is a significant impact, Metro will be moving forward with an environmental review at the same time.
Noting that even a finding of "no significant impact" would still take a lot of time, Molina joked that they should just find a billionaire in the City of Industry to get the legislature to pass a law allowing Metro to do whatever they want. When Board Chair Ara Najarian asked her if she knew any, she joked that she heard the Mayor had some contacts.
Briefly, the Board also voted to approve the "hybrid" option for the Route 2 Terminus Project, support minority businesses in the Crenshaw Corridor and the Mayor’s vision to move and empowered the staff to reach an agreement with Caltrans to widen the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass.