The Imaginary Landscape

Thursday, November 24, 2005

News from the Public Transportation Front

As traffic gets more unbearable each year, there’s some great news coming from the city regarding 2 major project: Phase I of the Expo Line and the extension of the Red Line.
Culver City Paves Way for Light Rail PlansBy
JUSTIN SCOTT, The Independent Staff Writer 22.NOV.

Council OKs resolution in a heated meeting packed by local residents.It’s been over 50 years since Culver City has seen any type of rail transit to downtown Los Angeles — which probably explains why Monday night’s city council’s discussion of the creation of light rail caused such an uproar.

In an overwhelming turnout, over 100 residents showed up for Monday’s City Council meeting, with representatives for Rep. Susan Watson, Councilman Herb Wesson and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa among those in attendance.After nearly three hours of discussion among councilmembers and residents, the council voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution that transmitted an official response to the MTA board regarding the Final Environmental Impact Report— effectively making way for an approval of a series of different ground level station options, the most likely being a station located at the intersection of Wesley and National boulevards.

While Monday’s vote did not constitute an approval of any project by the council, it did set the stage as to which of the five available station design options the council preferred, and sent recommendations to the MTA.Four of the five councimembers, without councilman Alan Corlin, voiced their approval of a temporary ground level station near the end of Wesley street - about 100 yards away from the MTA’s previously preferred option located between Venice and Robertson.

According to MTA plans, the temporary station would be used until the second phase of the project, which would allow for the creation of an above ground station, as well as the extension of the rail to Santa Monica. While the other councilmembers favored the temporary option, Corlin argued that approval of a temporary station lacked the foresight needed by the council to guarantee that the MTA would one day extend the light rail to the coast.“The Wesley station has got to be the worst idea ever,” said Corlin.“The numbers say there might not be funding available for further expansion in the future, and if you’re going to build this line, we have to do it the right way.”

While the environmental report did include an above ground station option, representatives from MTA could not promise the available funds for the creation of such a station during the initial phase of construction. According to the environmental report, the ground level “interim” station would be in use for somewhere between five and ten years.District representative Charles Stewart, however promised that congresswoman Watson would fight for the necessary funding to create the above ground station when that period was up.“Let’s not loose the momentum we’ve got so far,” he said. “Councilwoman Watson is committed to fighting for more funding, and she will not let the proposed subway extension take away that funding, even if she has to fight Waxman herself.”

Many Culver City residents expressed frustration, however, saying they felt their had not been given equal say to residents of Cheviot Hills, which sits north west of Culver City. Members of the Cheviot Hills community have protested the extension of the light rail through their city, without which would block plans to extend the potential line to Santa Monica.“Where are the riders coming from?” questioned resident Clint Simmons. “What happens if it doesn’t happen in five to ten years? It doesn’t look like we’re going to get past Cheviot Hills, and if it is not initially designed to continue to the beach, then will it ever?”

Others argued that if the city council rejected the provisions set forth in the environmental report, that the project would be sidelined indefinitely.“Traffic keeps getting worse, and it will continue,” said resident Kevin Clout. “It’s be wonderful if we could avoid traffic going to other areas like Baldwin park and to the coast, but we can’t. The longer we wait, the worse it will get.”Many concerns were more pressing. Joy Ellwell, who lives on the 3500 block of Wesley —right near where the proposed station would be placed - argued that an at grade rail line would cause heavy traffic that could impede police and rescue units.“Earlier this week I had to have an ambulance come to my house, and it only took nine minutes,” she said. “I don’t know how long it would have taken to get to my house if the (at grade) light rail had been put through.”

Westside Subway to Be Built in Three StagesTransportation
By Alice Walton,Special to the Independent

A report that the Westside subway extension can be built safely under Wilshire Boulevard has left Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa “ecstatic,” but now facing a campaign to get construction approved.At the same time, the mayor’s office said extending the Metro Red Line to the Pacific Ocean would happen in three phases, with the line extending first to Fairfax Avenue, then to the Westwood area and finally to Santa Monica.As expected, an independent peer review panel said last week it is safe to tunnel under Wilshire Boulevard.

The American Public Transportation Association's five-member panel told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Executive Management and Audit Committee that new technology would make it possible to tunnel in an area where methane was once a safety concern.According to the panel's presentation, “it is possible to tunnel and operate a subway along the Wilshire Corridor safely. By following proper procedures and using appropriate technologies, the risk would be no greater than other subway systems in the U.S.''The panel's final report will be presented to the board next week, said MTA spokesman Rick Jager.

The Metro Red Line, which runs from downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood, is prevented from extending past Western Avenue because of a federal ban initiated by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, in 1985.Waxman said tunneling was dangerous because of possible methane explosions. “His concern about it has always been the safety aspect,” said Waxman aide Pat Delgado. “We're waiting to see the official report. If it's safe to tunnel, then they will move to lift the restriction.”“We're just hoping we can get the ban lifted,'” said Darryl Ryan, a mayoral spokesman.But even if the federal ban is lifted, MTA board members will have to vote on whether to move forward with the project because the Metro Red Line is no longer a part of its long-range transportation plan.With the success of the new Metro Orange Line, Ryan said he does not anticipate a problem with support for the project.

“We're receiving a lot of support now that the Orange Line is complete,” Ryan said. “Obviously we have to work together.”A bigger problem, however, could be funding for the project. One subway mile costs about $350 million to construct.A 1998 initiative sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky barred the use of county sales tax money for subway projects.The MTA board passed the motion only after city officials from Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica expressed support for the project, LaBonge said.Alice Walton is a reporter for City News Service.


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