October 11, 2012
LAWT Wire Service
Balancing her toddler and shopping bags while boarding a Metro bus at Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Road, Bianca Brown does not hesitate when asked for her thoughts on the coming Crenshaw/LAX light rail line.
Gesturing toward other passengers on Metro Line 210, the twenty-something mother of one rattles off a checklist of benefits that reliable rail transit will bring to people like herself: South Los Angeles residents who use Metro as their primary mode of transportation.
“I think the [rail] line would be fabulous,” Brown said, as she settled into a seat on the bus. “That would be great — for us women, especially, because we have to take the baby out the stroller and the car seats to get on the bus. More trains? I think that’s a lot better. You get there faster, especially if you have to work and go to school.”
Scheduled to begin operation by late 2018, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will begin at Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards, a busy hub on the already-popular Expo Line light rail that opened to much fanfare last summer. It will travel on a route that passes through the heart of historically black South L.A., Inglewood, Hawthorne, El Segundo and parts of unincorporated L.A. County, before ending at the Aviation/LAX Station now serving the Metro Green Line.
At a total cost of $1.7 billion, there are currently six stations confirmed for the Crenshaw/LAX rail line: Crenshaw/Exposition, Crenshaw/Martin Luther King Jr., Crenshaw/Slauson, Florence/West, Florence/La Brea and Aviation/Century. There are two more stations — one at Leimert Park Village, the other at Florence/Hindry between Inglewood and Westchester — Metro planners want to include if funding can be secured.
Funding for the project comes primarily through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by L.A. County voters in 2008 — earmarking a projected $40 billion for congestion relief and other transportation projects throughout the region.
Preliminary work on the Crenshaw/LAX line has already begun. In June, a Metro contractor began performing a one-year, $8.6 million utility relocation project at 10 points along the Crenshaw Corridor, which officials say will be completed before work commences on the main design-build contract. Since 2010, Metro has hosted a series of community meetings and open houses intended to keep the public informed about progress on the project; in addition, the agency has also provided support to the Crenshaw/LAX Community Leadership Council, an advisory body that meets regularly to represent the interests of nearby residents and businesses.
With the Crenshaw/LAX project is expected to generate thousands of jobs, including construction and manufacturing, the Metro Board of Directors in January unanimously approved a landmark targeted hiring agreement. Covering virtually all Metro projects, the agreement requires that 40 percent of work hours on agency projects be performed by local workers living in disadvantaged areas.
For minority and women contractors, Metro's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program provides specialized opportunities for small businesses to win contracts during the Crenshaw/LAX construction phase.
A select number of stations on the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line are slated to be built below street level, a development that comes as good news for elderly riders like Earold Johnson, 85, who discussed the project on an unseasonably hot day while waiting for a bus at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards. A regular on Metro’s 105 bus line, Johnson believes a rail line on Crenshaw would bring relief to thousands of South L.A. residents whose daily lives rely on mass transit.
“Yes, I would much rather catch the train,” said the Trinidad native, who has used Metro regularly since moving to L.A. more than 30 years ago. ‘It would make my life easier. I believe it will be good for the community — it could be an asset to bring more people to the area.”
At a crowded bus stop near the bustling Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Metro rider Zach Johnson agreed. “I think the rail line is going to be very good for my travel life,” said the 54-year-old, who takes daily bus rides on the 40, 740, 210 and 710 lines. “I would take it to [several places along the route] and down to LAX.”