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Mixed Reviews on Crenshaw Corridor LRT Plan from Community Leaders

11_10_09_crenshaw_corridor_meeting.jpgCommunity turnout was strong at public meetings on what to do for the Crenshaw Corridor. Photo: Wad/Flickr

In what can only be considered a win for County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas the Metro staff is now recommending that light rail, not Bus Rapid Transit, be brought to the Crenshaw Corridor. Ridley-Thomas has been active behind the scenes and in front of the microphone pushing for adequate funding for light rail for his district.

However, just because a politician supports an idea doesn't mean it necessarily has the support of the communities he represents. For example, remember the vitriolic exchanges between Damien Goodmon and City Councilman, and former Ridley-Thomas opponent, Bernard Parks. So will Crenshaw run into similar opposition as Phase I of Expo? It depends who you ask. While some activists are thrilled to be getting light rail instead of "more buses," others question the proposed alignment.

At the Times' LA_Now blog, the Los Angeles Urban League gives the project a thumbs up:

"We do consider it a victory," said Trevor Ware, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Urban League.

"Look at the transportation options that we have now. We have buses on Crenshaw and we see other neighborhoods that are developing other types of transportation options," Ware added.

"To have a decision made that we will have light rail - that's so much faster and will have so much more of an economic impact - we need that too," he said.

This morning, I exchanged emails with Goodmon, who seemed supportive of the numerous below-grade crossings and stations for the project but also vowed to push on for further below-grade construction:

We applaud the inclusion of options into the Base LRT design, specifically the below grade Hyde Park portion, and the continued study of the remaining options. Our current focus is on getting the EIR to study the remaining portion between 48th and 60th that is not currently being studied for below grade, so as to avoid future delay from a supplemental environmental process.

For a list of all the grade crossings, visit the agenda for next week's Planning Committee meeting and head to page 5.

Goodmon also noted that there are other areas that might concern the community. Namely that the staff's recommended contractor is not from South L.A., undercutting Ridley-Thomas' boast of 8,700 new jobs and that any at-grade alignment is against the stated position of the City of Los Angeles and the Crenshaw Corridor Specific Plan. The resolution was sponsored by local City Councilmembers Parks and Wesson. A full copy of Goodmon's statement is available after the jump.

On behalf of the Citizens' Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, and
South Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's Joint Committee on Rail Transit
Delivered by Damien Goodmon

We agree with MTA staff's recommendation of light rail over bus rapid transit, the inclusion of the below grade (underground) sections along some parts of Crenshaw, and the recommendation to continue study of underground options and stations elsewhere along the route.

However, the portion on Crenshaw Blvd between 48th and 60th St, in Park Mesa Heights, will be a rallying point for our community. Staff is recommending the section, which abuts View Park Prep School and is just a block away from Crenshaw High School only be studied as street-level with no option for underground. We disagree, and want to avoid the problems articulated by Supervisor Gloria Molina regarding Eastside Extension safety issues, and the tragic record of MTA's Blue Line, America's deadliest light rail line.

Staff's recommendation for street level crossings in the Park Mesa Heights community will increase safety hazards to school aged children and the public at large, result in the removal of hundreds of parking spaces important to the area's commerce, the removal tall median trees that are crucial to Crenshaw Blvd's scenic highway status, increase congestion at heavily traveled cross streets, such as of Slauson and 54th, slow down the overall speed of the line, and impair an otherwise good economic development opportunities. From traffic, parking, safety, economic development and procedural standpoints, it is a mistake. As requested by the community, the neighborhood councils and the Los Angeles City Council, an underground option from 48th to 60th Street must be included among the other options under study, so when funding becomes available it can seamlessly integrated into the Crenshaw Line project without delay. MTA should avoid the mistakes of Expo while building Crenshaw.

Additionally, we disagree with staff's recommendation for the design and preliminary engineering contract. It appears Metro staff wants the board to throw aside a perfectly capable and eminently qualified team that included businesses owned by people who live in the Crenshaw Corridor, in favor a team led out of Orange County. The largest public works project in the history of South L.A. should not be designed from Orange County.

Staff is recommending the Hatch Mott McDonnell's team, over the PB Americas team, which included among others Terry Hayes of Terry Hayes Associates and Roland Wiley of RAW International. These local African-American business leaders have done all the preliminary work to date for this project going back to the early '90s, have deep roots in the Crenshaw area, have volunteered their expertise on numerous community projects, and most importantly have a strong understanding of the pulse of the Crenshaw community, because they live here.

I don't yet know why the PB Americas team was not selected, but the MTA board should overrule the staff recommendation to ensure that the promises made by elected officials to generate more jobs and a leadership role for the community are kept.

We will be working in the coming weeks to persuade the MTA Board to address these issues promptly so our region and the Crenshaw corridor communities can receive what is necessary and what we are due: a fast, safe and reliable alternative to the traffic that is clogging our streets and polluting our air.

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