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Irvine's Voters May Get Say on CenterLine

Transit: The City Council proposes a ballot on the rail line, target of a new initiative campaign.

September 11, 2002|DAN WEIKEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Facing an initiative campaign by opponents of the proposed CenterLine rail project, the Irvine City Council on Tuesday offered to have residents decide whether the city should participate in the commuter train system.

The council proposed giving voters the option of ending the project outright or allowing portions to be built. The city would abide by the results of an election to be held before June 30, 2003.

"We are genuinely trying to structure a process where the public can be heard," said Mayor Larry Agran, who has repeatedly said that city residents would get to vote on CenterLine.

Over the weekend, opponents of the project launched an initiative campaign to halt the light rail route through Irvine. They hope to gather enough signatures to qualify the initiative for a possible March special election.

"This [motion] is another in a series of surprises and an attempt by the City Council to manipulate the situation in their favor," said John Kleinpeter, chairman of the Find Alternatives Instead of Rail Transit, an anti-CenterLine group based in Irvine. "They know our initiative is a serious threat."

The motion for the citywide vote, made by Councilwoman Beth Krom and seconded by Agran, came as the council considered a plan to shorten the 18-mile light rail line by more than six miles and locate the southern terminus at UC Irvine. Debate on that vote continued late Tuesday night as proponents and opponents testified during a public hearing.

The council's approval is necessary to finalize the alignment of the line's first leg, which in turn will allow the Orange County Transportation Authority to apply for federal funding by a Sept. 16 deadline.

The change means the route will not reach the Irvine Spectrum or the Irvine Transportation Center. OCTA approved the line's truncated version Monday.

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