Crenshaw Subway Coalition Sees Opening in FTA Approval of Crenshaw Environmental Documents

As the second trickled away on the 2011 work year, the Federal Transit Administration issued its Record of Decision approving the environmental documents for the Crenshaw Light Rail Line.  The approval allows Metro to go forward with preliminary acquisitions and work needed to construct the line. It also makes the project able to receive federal funds, although most of the project is paid for with funds from the Measure R sales tax.

While both Metro Staff and staff for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have hailed the FTA’s decision as a “milestone,” one would expect the Crenshaw Subway Coalition (CSC) which is suing the project under environmental justice concerns to have an opposite reaction.

Instead, CSC President Damien Goodmon sees an opportunity for Metro and CSC to work together even as the community group’s lawsuit against the line moves forward.

While the FTA’s decision wasn’t popular with proponents of a grade-separated rail line, instead of railing against the decision, a decision that could be overturned by a federal judge, opens an opportunity for Metro to begin studying the proposed “subway option” for Crenshaw where the twelve blocks.

Now that Metro has its Record of Decision, it can continue on its current track while beginning a second track to integrate the tunnel Goodmon argues.  Assuming the tunnel is cleared, it would allow contractors to include the tunnel in construction bids, an option they currently have for “optional stations” in Westchester and Leimert Park.

“At the end of the day, it cost Expo Construction Authority more to fight us than it would have to put an overpass or underpass at Farmdale,” said Goodmon referencing his past battles over the Expo Line.  ”Metro shouldn’t repeat that mistake.”

When the Metro Board approved stations for Leimert Park and Westchester without funding, it also cleared those projects to undergo an environmental review.  Goodmon is basically arguing that Metro repeat those decisions for the “Park Mesa Tunnel” which would complete the grade separation of the Crenshaw Line along the Crenshaw Corridor.  While the Metro Board, and now FTA, have approved these stations, the budget for the line has not increased from $1.7 billion.

Goodmon argues that the first step for agency would be passing “The People’s Motion” unveiled at a November community meeting that called for study of the Park Mesa Tunnel.  At this point, no Board Member has shown interest in formally introducing the motion, but the CSC moves forward undeterred.

“Studying the tunnel puts us in a situation to succeed.  Not studying it puts us in front of a judge,” Goodmon concludes.