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Forum to Discuss Hawthorne Blvd. Light-Rail Line

August 20, 1989|TIM WATERS | Times Staff Writer

A proposal to build a costly elevated light-rail line down the middle of busy Hawthorne Boulevard will be the topic of a public forum Tuesday at Torrance City Hall.

City Council members scheduled the 5:30 p.m. hearing last week after receiving a draft engineering study on the ambitious transit project. The line, which would connect to another that is being built as part of the Century Freeway, is in the early planning stages and faces numerous funding and other obstacles.

"It is a discussion document pointing out a number of decisions that would have to be made along the way," Torrance Mayor Katy Geissert said of the study. "But if there are problems the community is not willing to accept, we need to know it now and look for alternatives."

Could Decide by Spring

The $140,000 study was undertaken after South Bay political and business leaders urged the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission to approve a full environmental study on the project. The report issued last week is viewed as precursor to such a study.

Jacki Bacharach, who is mayor of Rancho Palos Verdes and a county transportation commissioner, said commissioners could decide by next spring whether to proceed with an environmental study on the Hawthorne Boulevard rail line. The line will likely compete against three other proposed rail lines for future planning funds, she said.

"Personally, I don't believe in (environmental studies) unless I think a project can become a reality," she said.

County transportation officials said an elevated rail line down Hawthorne would cost an estimated $50 million a mile to build. Initial ridership surveys indicate that the line would attract only 20,000 people a day, raising the issue of whether it would be cost-effective.

As outlined in the draft study, the northern end of the rail line would hook up to the Century Freeway line at Compton Boulevard. It would snake southeast to Manhattan Beach Boulevard, then east along the boulevard's median and the southwest side of the San Diego Freeway.

The line would enter Hawthorne Boulevard at the intersection with the San Diego Freeway and run south for about six miles to Lomita Boulevard. It could veer off to major shopping centers along the way to boost ridership.

Street Redesign Necessary

The report says large segments of Hawthorne Boulevard would have to be redesigned to accommodate the rail line. Intersections would have to be widened, and numerous left-turn lanes would have to be eliminated.

Also, the report says it would be impractical for the line to end at a former landfill in Rolling Hills Estates next to Ernie Howlett Park. Although it is possible to build a spur to the area, steep grades would make it difficult to build a southern terminal there or to extend the line southward in future years, according to the report.

The report discusses placing the terminal on either Lomita Boulevard or Skypark Drive.

Torrance council members have already made it clear that any rail line must not end in the city but must extend to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The council has expressed concern that Torrance could become a parking lot for commuters living on the peninsula.

"I don't want to become the dumping ground or thoroughfare for the Palos Verdes Peninsula," Torrance Councilman Bill Applegate said in an interview last week. "I think they have to share some of the burden."

The public forum will be held in City Council chambers.

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