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Rail Study Sees Little Impact on Environment

February 16, 1989|JEFFREY L. RABIN | Times Staff Writer

A light-rail line from El Segundo to Marina del Rey would disrupt traffic and generate noise and dust problems during construction but would not cause any significant long-term impact on the environment.

That conclusion is contained in a draft environmental impact report on the proposed north coastal rail line that would pass within five blocks of Los Angeles International Airport.

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission was scheduled to hold an information meeting today in Westchester to describe the project to the community.

A public hearing on the environmental report will be held Feb. 23, although a decision on whether to build all or part of the rail line is not expected until the summer, at the earliest.

Fully Automated Trains

Plans call for fully automated one- or two-car electric trains to run along the 5.9-mile route at ground level, on aerial tracks and through subway tunnels.

The report contains no ridership or cost estimates, but they are expected to be announced at the information meeting.

Previous estimates put the cost at between $40 million and $60 million a mile. At that rate, the project could cost between $236 million and $354 million.

The report foresees no significant, long-term impact on neighborhoods because the route studied avoids residential areas.

But the two-inch-thick environmental report identifies significant and unavoidable short-term environmental impacts during construction. Traffic would be disrupted while the line and its six stations are being built. The project would also generate increased noise and dust during construction despite efforts to control it.

Jacki Bacharach, chairwoman of the transportation commission's rail construction committee, said those kinds of problems are inevitable with any large construction project.

"It's very hard to superimpose a brand new transit system in a developed area," Bacharach said. "There is no easy way and no inexpensive way to do it."

Privately owned land would have to be acquired at various locations along the route, including part of a car rental lot located near the airport.

The report said the presence of commuters and pedestrians at the rail stations may result in increased crime or accidents and may require law enforcement and fire department assistance.

In the long run, the report said, the project is expected to generate more traffic in and around the rail stations and park-and-ride lots. But the increased local traffic would be more than offset by a decrease in longer vehicle trips as motorists switch from private cars to rail travel.

According to the report, the impact of building a segment of the rail line across the Ballona wetland can be reduced by scheduling the construction during the dry summer and fall months.

One impact of the project cannot be eliminated--the visual impact of the aerial structures, although landscaping and design can help to minimize it. Noise from the trains could be muffled and light from the stations can be shielded to eliminate spillover into surrounding areas, according to the report.

Steve Lantz, the commission's community relations manager, said the project will not have significant impact on neighborhoods because the route avoids residential areas. Lantz said the visual impact, noise and traffic near the rail stations are long-term impacts of the project that cannot be eliminated.

Increased Development

The report notes that there is a potential for increased development near the stations, but Lantz said zoning and building controls are the responsibility of local officials, not the commission.

The report also said that hazardous or toxic wastes may be encountered during construction and will have to be removed. Archeological resources such as artifacts may also be found.

"Until you dig, you don't know what you find," Lantz said.

The coastal line would connect with the 20-mile-long Century Freeway light-rail line at Imperial Highway and Aviation Boulevard in El Segundo.

The elevated track would then run north along Aviation Boulevard, dropping to ground level as it passes the airport's south runways, then climbing again onto an aerial structure.

The line would turn west on Century Boulevard. After crossing Avion Drive, the line would head north, passing the airport's Parking Lot C. The route would continue north and west along Westchester Parkway until it reaches Lincoln Boulevard.

At Loyola Boulevard, the line would enter a subway tunnel and continue under Manchester Avenue. After emerging at Hughes Terrace and climbing onto an aerial track, the line would continue along Lincoln Boulevard to Culver Boulevard. The northernmost station would be located on Culver Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and the Marina Expressway.

Other stations would be built on Century Boulevard, at Lot C, Westchester Parkway, Manchester Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard.

Construction would be financed by a 1/2% sales tax for transportation approved by Los Angeles County voters.

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