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Plan Disclosed for 3 County Rail Lines : Transportation: Competing projects would all be built over next 11 years if voters approve June ballot measures, planners say.

March 17, 1990|JAMES QUINN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Confident that voters will approve billions of dollars in transportation spending measures in June, Los Angeles County rail planners on Friday unveiled a plan to build three competing rail projects--a San Fernando Valley extension of the downtown Metro Rail, a downtown-to-Pasadena line and a rail spur to Los Angeles International Airport--over the next 11 years.

If the $2.2-billion construction plan is approved later this month by the County Transportation Commission, it would head off a bruising fight among the Valley, the northeast Los Angeles-Pasadena area and the airport area over which one would get the next rail line.

However, in addition to assuming that California voters will add nine cents to the gasoline tax on June 5 and approve the sale of $2 billion in rail bonds, the plan requires that cities that would benefit from the new lines, especially Los Angeles, come up with $309 million.

Neil Peterson, commission executive director, said that if voters do not approve the ballot measures, "we don't have a contingency plan. . . . If the propositions don't pass, it wipes out this program."

Commissioners admitted to being pleasantly surprised at the possibility they might not have to choose between the three rival projects, each of which has enthusiastic advocates.

"I don't know of any commissioner who has been looking forward to a fight," said Commissioner Jackie Bacharach,

Bacharach, who heads the commission's Rail Construction Committee, called Peterson's plan a "fantastic concept" but said she would "have to study it more before I'm convinced it will work."

The Rancho Palos Verdes councilwoman said she is becoming optimistic about the June 5 ballots "because no opposition seems to be forming. But remember that under this plan, we also have to have financial help from local officials."

However, Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, who chairs the council's Transportation Committee, Friday promptly rejected any new city contribution, saying, "We've given enough to the Metro Rail and we're already on the line for any cost overruns in the future."

Holden said he planned to pressure the commission "to start work on the Valley line immediately and let the others follow."

He predicted that a majority of the council, which has leverage with the commission because it is paying part of the $4-billion cost of building Metro Rail from downtown to North Hollywood, would support that strategy.

The commission's Transit Committee is to take up the plan Monday and the full commission is expected to vote on it March 28.

The proposed Valley project, which has a $1.1-billion price tag, is a 5.6-mile extension of the downtown-to-North Hollywood Metro Rail subway westward to the San Diego Freeway at Oxnard Street in Van Nuys.

The line would be built in the Southern Pacific railroad freight right of way that crosses the Valley parallel to Chandler and Victory boulevards and, in a concession to vocal homeowners, would be underground in residential areas of North Hollywood.

The downtown-to-Pasadena project, costing $925 million, would employ the same equipment as the nearly completed ground-level Long Beach-Los Angeles light-rail line, scheduled to be in operation in July. The Pasadena line, which would serve Chinatown and Highland Park, would connect to the Metro Rail subway at Union Station.

The 2.5-mile Los Angeles airport spur, expected to cost an estimated $137 million, would be an extension of the Century Freeway light-rail line northward from its western terminus in El Segundo.

The line, which will employ the same futuristic computer-controlled rail cars as the Century Freeway line, would cut across the airport's Lot C en route to a terminus in Westchester.

Peterson and his staff recommended against extending the system three miles more to Marina del Rey, saying that would add little to the line's ridership.

As proposed by the commission staff, construction of the coast line would begin next year and be completed when the Century Freeway line opens in 1994.

Construction of the downtown-to-Pasadena line would begin in 1993 and be completed in 1998.

Work on the Valley Metro Rail segment would start in 1996 and be finished in 2001, the same year that the subway is to reach North Hollywood from downtown.

Of the $2.2-billion cost for the three projects, $1.2 billion would come from the two transportation propositions on the June ballot which also would finance freeway construction and local road improvements. Also, $309 million would come from local cities and $700 million would be from the extra half-cent sales tax that Los Angeles County voters approved in 1980.

The two light rail projects already under way--the Century Freeway and Long Beach-Los Angeles lines--as well as the local share of the downtown Metro Rail, are being financed with the sales tax receipts.

Should Los Angeles refuse to contribute to the construction of three lines, the commission staff suggested that stations might be eliminated from the Pasadena line or some portions of the line might be single-track, a configuration that often slows service because trains must pull onto sidings while others go through.

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