MTA to Vote on Fate of Crenshaw Line Subway & Leimert Park Village Station
At next Thursday’s MTA board meeting, board member and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will be offering a motion to address the two major remaining design issues for the proposed Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail, which is to scheduled to begin construction next year: undergrounding the entirety of the Crenshaw Blvd portion of the rail line, and adding a station at historic Leimert Park Village.
Of the 8.5-mile $1.6 billion line, which will add the Crenshaw District, Inglewood, Westchester and LAX to MTA’s growing rail system, 2 of the 3 miles in the Crenshaw Blvd portion is proposed to be built underground in a subway. But community groups want the final mile, between 48th street to 59th street (known as the Park Mesa Heights segment), underground and the currently “optional” station at historic Leimert Park Village to be official. Ridley-Thomas’ motion would require MTA staff to identify the estimated $339 million necessary to include both options into the project, and proposes as potential resources currently uncommitted funds from the recently passed Measure R sales tax for transportation.
“This is the moment we’ve been working to get to for over 4 years,” said Damien Goodmon, coordinator of the Fix Expo/Crenshaw Subway Coalition. The coalition has brought considerable attention to the rail safety, traffic and environmental disruption from street-level rail lines through their Fix Expo Campaign regarding the Downtown-to-Culver City Expo light rail line. Simultaneously, they’ve cautioned the board to avoid the mistakes of the Expo Line when building the Crenshaw Line.
“The rail safety issues on the Expo Line can also be seen on the Crenshaw Line,” said Lester Hollins, a former MTA light rail operator and parent of a Crenshaw High School graduate. “If built at street-level the train will pass right in front of View Park Prep and just a block away from Crenshaw High School. We’ve already seen numerous children hit crossing Crenshaw Blvd. Adding a 225-ton train traveling 40 mph to the mix is like pouring fuel on a fire.”
The economic impacts of street-level construction and operation on Crenshaw Blvd, an internationally recognized African-American residential and business community, are just as severe.
“This is the only remaining corridor of African-American small businesses in Southern California, and we’re barely making as it is,” said Jackie Ryan, past president of the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association. “Does MTA really want to be known as the agency that put the nail in the coffin of one of America’s most noteworthy black business communities?”
“In addition to 4 to 5 years of destructive street-level construction between 48th and 59th streets, the current MTA plan would require equally devastating cut-and-cover construction on Crenshaw Blvd from 59th to the Harbor Subdivision tracks at 67th Street,” said Clint Simmons, a retired JPL professional engineer. “If Ridley-Thomas’ motion is adopted, a bored tunnel would be used the entirety on Crenshaw Blvd, minimizing surface level disruption.”
Bored tunnel construction involves the placement of a large mining machine in a shaft at a station area, and mining between 30-60 feet below the street. Surface level disruption is limited to the location of the stations.
Ridley-Thomas’ motion would also appropriate the resources necessary to make the currently “optional” Leimert Park Village station official.
“The businesses of Leimert Park Village, current and future, need a station at Vernon to allow all Crenshaw-LAX Line riders to easily access our village which is an international tourist destination and a cultural gem to Southern California,” said Ryan. “Building a Crenshaw-LAX Line that does not have a stop at Leimert Park Village is like painting the Mona Lisa without a face.”
“The choice before the MTA Board could not be more stark,” said Goodmon. “The MTA board can vote to effectively kill the last remaining African-American commercial corridor in Southern California by voting down the motion, or they can provide for the Crenshaw community the greatest opportunity for economic revitalization perhaps ever.”
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