Thursday, May 27, 2010

LACMTA considers Green Line extension

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The Los Angeles Metro Transit Authority is exploring ways to provide commuters with an alternative to the 405 freeway by extending the South Bay Metro Green Line. One option is into North Redondo Beach, to many residents' dismay, the Beach Reporter reports.

The MTA is currently conducting an environmental review of a more comprehensive South Bay transportation network that, according to an agency fact sheet, would improve mobility in southwest Los Angeles County by assessing "the regional rail network through connections to the Metro Blue Line" and the potential Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.

But many residents in North Redondo Beach have already begun protesting the changes, citing quality-of-life concerns that a noisy passenger train and station would impose located so close to their homes.

"We're in the very early stages of the Environmental (Impact) Report, and so as we go through the environmental process, we'll be looking at things, such as the concerns that were brought up, and seeing what needs to be done - if anything - to address (the residents') concerns," said Renee Berlin, an executive officer in MTA's planning department. "But at this point, I can't tell you because we haven't really gotten into the environmental document yet. We just did the first phase, which is conducting the scoping."

To that end, Redondo Councilman Steve Diels said, "(MTA) did the studies regarding the various alignment options, and now they're doing public outreach (through) scoping studies. I have been letting my constituents know all along that all this is happening. But since the scoping studies started, now they're really concerned because they seem to think that the construction is imminent. There's no evidence (of that). The wildest, optimistic estimates would be that construction could occur in five years. The likelihood is, it's 10 to 30 years." Diels admitted that the residents whose homes abut the railroad tracks would receive the biggest impact.

"They are so wrong," Bruce Szeles, a District 4 resident, said of the officials' 10- to 30-year estimate.

According to Berlin, the MTA board recently adopted L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's 30/10 plan for metro transit, which directs transportation providers to find funding for all the Measure "R" projects, "to expedite their delivery, and to deliver, basically, 30 years' (worth) of projects in 10 years," Berlin said.

According to Metro's Web site, $272 million worth of Measure "R" funds will go toward funding the extension, but Szeles claims the city would receive money in addition to that. Measure "R" consists of a half-cent sales tax increase that voters approved in November of 2008. The proceeds go toward transit projects, and the measure is expected to generate about $40 billion throughout its 30-year lifespan, according to Metro's Website.

Some city residents wonder why the extension can't be run down Hawthorne Boulevard instead.

"The project manager was given that question," Szeles said. "His response was that they did look into it, and that the cities of Lawndale and Torrance just redid their sections of Hawthorne Boulevard (and so) they were opposed to it."

"Back in the late 1990s, we and the South Bay did a route refinement study," Berlin said. "We looked at Hawthorne Boulevard at that time. Since that time, there have been a lot of changes and redevelopment on Hawthorne Boulevard. We own the rail right of way, which was purchased specifically for a transit corridor. There would be far less impact (on views and traffic) if we use the existing rail lines. Since we own the asset, we'd like to use it."

Berlin added that MTA conducted an alternative analysis study last year, "and Hawthorne Boulevard was taken out of consideration at that time.

The Green Line now runs north and south, from the LAX airport area and ends at Marine Avenue. The proposed extension would travel through Lawndale, Redondo Beach and Torrance. In Redondo, it would cross Artesia Boulevard just north of where it intersects Inglewood Avenue, and then dip below a train trellis along the Breakwater Village condominium complex, heading toward the South Bay Galleria shopping mall.

"The railroad tracks were originally, exclusively freight line tracks. Then, years back, they built the Alameda Corridor, and when (that happened), the MTA got the rights to put passenger service on the tracks, where the old freight line exists," Diels said.

The MTA will review and analyze four new options. The first, a Light Rail Alternative, would extend the Green Line from its current Redondo Beach Station terminus to the proposed Torrance Regional Transit Center.

The second is a Freight Track Alternative, which would provide new rail service on upgraded Harbor Subdivision railroad tracks from Century/Aviation boulevards to the planned Torrance RTC.

The third, a No-build Alternative, would allow for a transportation network without the proposed project.

Finally, a Transportation Systems Management Alternative would provide lower-cost capital and operational improvements, such as improved signal synchronization designed to improve bus speed. These and the environmental process are outlined briefly in the aforementioned overview fact sheet, which can be found at www.metro.net.

According to SB Metro, an Alternatives Analysis study was completed prior to initiating the environmental review. The AA study evaluated the potential transit alternatives that could utilize the Metro-owned railroad right of way known as the Harbor Subdivision. According to SB Metro's Website, the SBMGLE emerged as the AA study's highest priority. In December of 2009, the Metro board of directors approved moving forward into the draft Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report phase of project development.

Concerned residents have until May 28 to air their grievances with Metro.

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