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Council Must OK Line Through Compton : Officials Meet in Effort to Save L.A.-to-L.B. Trolley

April 07, 1985|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

COMPTON — In a weeklong series of meetings, city, county and railroad officials have intensified their efforts to save the proposed $675-million Los Angeles-to-Long Beach trolley line through Compton while relocating the freight train traffic the City Council says could stop downtown redevelopment here.

Negotiators have set a joint meeting for Monday in hopes of reaching a compromise before the Tuesday deadline for Compton approval of the 21-mile electric railway from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach.

Los Angeles County Transportation commissioners have said that unless Compton agrees to cooperate by the April 9 deadline they will probably kill the trolley line through Compton. Instead, they could choose an alternate route between Long Beach and Los Angeles or decide to make a completely different line the first link in a 150-mile rapid transit network for metropolitan Los Angeles.

The Transportation Commission meets Wednesday.

Freight Train Problem

Compton has insisted that the commission include in its light-rail planning a solution to Compton's decades-old freight train problem, which is expected to get worse as freight hauled from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach tincreases.

From the Transportation Commission's point of view, the two issues are "totally separate," said commission chairwoman Jackie Bacharach.

Long Beach and Los Angeles, the other two cities through which the light rail would run, have endorsed the Transportation Commission's plan.

While redoubled bargaining efforts have produced no agreement, city officials said they were encouraged by a Wednesday after noon meeting with executives of the Southern Pacific Transportation Co.

Railroad executives told the city that they would go along with any city or county plan for track realignment through Compton as long as government pays the bill and the railway's freight-handling capacity is not jeopardized.

"They say they'll do anything we want," said surprised Councilman Maxcy Filer, a leading opponent of light rail.

But Filer noted that any agreement would have to include the city, the railroad and the Transportation Commission, whose light-rail plan Compton has rejected.

Longtime Position

Rick Richmond, Transportation Commission executive director, said the railroad was simply restating its longtime position, and the question of who will pay extra expenses on the two alternatives favored by Compton is still unresolved.

The county plan calls for construction in Compton of two trolley lines at street level next to an existing freight line along Willowbrook Avenue, which runs between the modern City Hall and the new $20-million Town Center shopping center.

In response, Compton endorsed a plan March 26--the initial deadline set by the county--that would allow the trolley and freight lines on Willowbrook only if they were placed in a trench below street level, thus reducing existing noise and traffic problems. The Transportation Commission has rejected that alternative because it would add at least $130 million to construction costs.

At the same meeting, however, the City Council majority made it clear that it might endorse an alternate proposal. The council would approve light-rail construction at street level on Willowbrook if the Transportation Commission would guarantee that freight train traffic, expected to at least double in a decade, would be moved into a trench along Alameda Street, about one-third mile east of City Hall. Though still close to the new shopping center, the Alameda track runs primarily through industrial areas and has far fewer homes near it than the Willowbrook route.

'Have to Do Something'

"Nobody is against light rail, but the heavy rail is such a problem here that we just have to do something about it," said City Manager Laverta Montgomery, a longtime light-rail supporter.

Transportation Commission spokespersons said they were unable to provide a written guarantee that the freight traffic would be shifted to Alameda, but they agreed to work with Compton and Southern Pacific to that end.

If the trolley project is allowed to move forward, the Transportation Commission will also lobby for state and federal funds to lower the Alameda line, county officials said.

But the council majority--Mayor Walter Tucker and council members Filer and Jane Robbins--said the Transportation Commission's good intentions ensured nothing, and the council voted 3 to 2 for the subterranean Willowbrook route.

Councilmen Floyd James and Robert Adams Sr. said the light rail is too valuable for Compton to lose and favored the county plan.

Thus, after two years of negotiation, there is still no agreement.

The Transportation Commission has argued that the light-rail construction and the freight train problem should be separated.

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