Ryan McDonald

South Bay support sought for fast-track of Metro rail project

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A proposed route for the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line. Rendering courtesy City of West Hollywood

by Ryan McDonald

There are few places harder to reach from the South Bay than West Hollywood: no freeway passes through it, and those that will bring drivers near it are constantly packed. But with a bit of help from regional transportation officials, residents could be able to get there in less than 40 minutes on a single train.

It’s is possible thanks to Measure M, a sales tax measure approved by voters that raises billions of dollars to complete public transit projects and road upgrades throughout Los Angeles County. How soon this happens, however, remains to be seen. It could happen before the 2028 Olympics. Or South Bay residents might have to wait another 20 years. The answer may be decided this week, when the Metro board votes on its annual budget.

Construction is well underway on the Crenshaw Line, which will run along the eponymous boulevard and connect the Green Line and Los Angeles International Airport to the Expo Line, which runs between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The Crenshaw Line is projected to open late next year. But the extension to the Red Line, the subway connecting downtown with Hollywood, is not projected to be completed until 2047.

In response, a group known as the All on Board Coalition is pressing Metro to set aside funds for an Environmental Impact Report for the northern extension. Although a final route for the extension has not been decided on, one alternative would route the train along San Vicente Boulevard and through the Miracle Mile neighborhood, and pass by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood before connecting with the Red Line station at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

The Coalition started out in West Hollywood, which had a higher percentage of its residents vote in favor of Measure M than any other city in the county. Backers there decided to reach out to South Bay cities that would potentially be at the other end of the train.

“You’ve got Silicon Beach and South Bay tech companies, and El Segundo on one end. Then you’ve got Hollywood and the creative industry. And you’ve got hotels and LAX in between. This would be an alternative to the 405 (freeway),” said David Fenn, an associate planner for capital and special projects with the City of West Hollywood.

The South Bay Cities Council of Governments signed on last year. Thrive Hermosa, a local organization that works on economic vitality issues, submitted a letter in support of funding the EIR. And so did Mayor Jeff Duclos, who cited the combination of bad traffic and current limits on public transit.

“Because of roadway congestion and the lack of mass transit alternatives, some 46 percent of Hermosa Beach commuters spend more than 30 minutes to travel each way to work, with the major work destinations being the creative and professional work centers in Los Angeles, Culver City, West Hollywood and Santa Monica,” Duclos wrote.

According to Metro’s Trip Planner, a commuter starting a weekday trip on public transportation  at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway would arrive at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, in the City of Los Angeles, about 8:30 a.m. The same person trying to reach the City of West Hollywood would likely need more than two hours. Both trips would require at least two transfers.

The Metro Board’s vote came on Wednesday after press time. But according to Joanna Hankamer, a principal planner with West Hollywood, having an EIR in hand would help to attract additional funding for completing the line.

“No entity or entity wants to invest unless they know what they’re getting into. We won’t have a lot of the final details until [the project] has gone through the EIR.”

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