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Alhambra, S. Pasadena at Odds Over Proposals : Two Cities Ponder Light-Rail Routes

January 29, 1989|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

Alhambra and South Pasadena, which have long been at odds over construction of the Long Beach Freeway, are now in disagreement over the route of a proposed light-rail line from downtown Los Angeles toward Pasadena.

The South Pasadena City Council has endorsed a route that would run trolley cars to South Pasadena along the Santa Fe railroad tracks through Highland Park. Alhambra officials favor a route along Main Street in Los Angeles through El Sereno that would tie in with the proposed extension of the Long Beach Freeway.

Both routes are under consideration by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, which will decide later this year whether to build at least part of the Los Angeles-Pasadena line in the next decade. But first the commission must select the route to Pasadena.

Alhambra City Manager Kevin Murphy said the proposed route through El Sereno would be cheaper to build and better serve his city, which is heavily dependent on public transportation.

"It's the better choice," said Murphy. "It's shorter. It's cheaper. What more do you want?"

But South Pasadena City Manager John Bernardi said a rail line running through El Sereno and then northward along the Long Beach Freeway corridor through the heart of his city would be as objectionable as the freeway extension itself.South Pasadena has resisted such a rail line for decades to the dismay of Alhambra and other neighboring cities who want the freeway built quickly to ease traffic congestion.

Bernardi said that combining the rail line with the freeway would be acceptable only if the state replaces its proposed freeway route through the center of South Pasadena with the city's proposed westerly alignment.

Assurance Is Sought

Bernardi said the city will ask the county Transportation Commission to look at the westerly alignment as an alternative. While the city is on record in support of the proposed route along the Santa Fe tracks, Bernardi said, there are a number of issues to be resolved, including the placement of stations. He said the city also wants assurance that the line will not end in South Pasadena, but in Pasadena.

The Transportation Commission has circulated a draft environmental impact report on the alternate routes up to South Pasadena and El Sereno, but the choice of a route through Pasadena rests with that city's Board of Directors. The commission and the city are jointly funding studies on the Pasadena alignment. The city board is expected to adopt a route this summer.

The Pasadena-Los Angeles line is an extension of a trolley line between Los Angeles and Long Beach that is scheduled to begin service in the middle of 1990.

Trolley Cars in Pasadena

Pasadena officials said they are not taking a position on what route the trolley line should take outside Pasadena, but a city task force has recommended that the line enter the city limits along the Santa Fe railroad tracks, rather than the Long Beach Freeway.

Trolley cars would proceed north in Pasadena along the railroad right-of-way and then either veer east through the downtown area, or remain in the Santa Fe right-of-way and travel east in the middle of the Foothill Freeway.

Douglas C. Reilly, city transit and commuter services coordinator, said there are advantages to each pathway. Placing the line along the freeway might serve commuters well and avoid disrupting downtown, but bringing the line along city streets could stimulate business and bring passengers closer to a variety of shopping and entertainment destinations.

Two routes have been proposed on Pasadena streets. One plan would turn Green Street into a transit mall, with trolley lines in both directions. Another plan, called the Green-Colorado Couplet, would put the eastbound line on Green Street and the westbound line on Colorado Boulevard from the Santa Fe right-of-way to Hill Street. Both routes would go north on Hill to a railroad spur near Walnut Street and then eastward to a terminal in the vicinity of Rosemead Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa.

Gordon Bagby, chairman of the city's rail alignment task force, said support is developing for both the freeway and downtown alternatives, and he may propose a compromise route that would combine elements of the two. His hope, he said, is that the task force can reach agreement and recommend a route to the Board of Directors this spring.

As Soon as Possible

After making its decision, the board will urge the Transportation Commission to schedule construction as soon as possible. Pasadena officials hope that the Los Angeles-Pasadena line will be seen by the Transportation Commission as less controversial and easier to build then lines elsewhere in the county, and that the commission will push it ahead of other projects.

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