City officials and major employers showed overwhelming support this week for extending a proposed light rail line through El Segundo and into Hawthorne, and recommended that a portion of the track be elevated to reduce the impact on traffic.
The state could save about $12 million by building a ground-level track, but city and business officials cautioned against it at a public hearing Tuesday before the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. They said such a plan could worsen traffic flow by reducing street widths and blocking key intersections during peak hours.
"An aerial structure would have a much less significant effect on traffic flow and is more consistent with city's general plan," said El Segundo Planning Director Lynn Harris at the hearing held in El Segundo City Hall to discuss the environmental impact of the proposed extension of the Century Freeway light rail line.
Representatives of several industrial and aerospace companies, including Hughes Aircraft Co., TRW, and Continental Development Corp., also noted that the state would not have to buy as much land if an elevated track were built over Nash Street in El Segundo.
The proposed extension would hook up with a 17-mile, $225-million light rail system that is proposed along the Century Freeway. That line would extend east to Norwalk and intersect with another proposed rail system between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach.
All three systems are expected to open in 1993 when the Century Freeway is completed, said Steve Lantz, spokesman for the county transportation commission, which is a state agency created to administer and coordinate funding for rapid-transit projects.
The two-mile extension through El Segundo would be within walking distance of more than 25,000 employees, and state officials estimate that about 99,000 passengers would use the line daily by the year 2000. State estimates also indicate that an additional 10,000 passengers would ride the line if it were extended another mile into Hawthorne.
Most of the employers supported extending the line to Hawthorne and building a rail and maintenance yard there instead of in El Segundo.
"What sense would it make to build an extension only halfway through the employment center?" asked Bill Birtcil, deputy executive director of the El Segundo Employers Assn., a coalition of companies working to reduce traffic congestion.
Rail Yard Site
But TRW spokesman Michael Jackson said his company plans to file a report with the commission protesting the proposed site of the Hawthorne rail yard, which he said would be too close to the defense contractor's high-security building. He said the yard should be closer to Hawthorne's proposed redevelopment area just west of the San Diego Freeway. Hawthorne City Engineer Clint Smith said the city "emphatically supports" extending the line into Hawthorne, but will wait until TRW files its report before taking a stand on where the yard should be.
The commission received very few complaints about the proposed system during more than two hours of statements. One resident was concerned that the rail yards would attract vandals and transients, and the owners of the West Bay Plaza office complex at the corner of Nash Street and El Segundo Boulevard were concerned that the rail line would cut across the corner of their property and eliminate 7% of the facility's parking.
"We're not sure why it had to take a turn just where it did and lop off a portion of our property," said Eugene Friedlander, general partner for West Bay Plaza.
The transportation commission will review Tuesday's testimony and several written statements from companies, residents and government officials that did not attend the public hearing, and decide by October whether to elevate part of the system, how far the line should go, and where to place the maintenance yard.
Early Approval Expected
With such strong support, construction of the project is likely to be approved by the end of the year, said Commissioner Jacki Bacharach, who is also a Rancho Palos Verdes City Council member.
Lantz said the commission already took care of complaints from residents of Hawthorne's Holly Glen neighborhood by moving a proposed viaduct over the Rosecrans Avenue and Aviation Boulevard intersection farther west to cut down on noise.
The commission will accept written comments about the light rail project's impact on the environment through Aug. 21.