South Los Angeles has won a significant victory as transportation officials recommended this week that a proposed transit corridor along Crenshaw Boulevard be a light-rail line rather than a less expensive dedicated busway.
The recommendation, made by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority staff, gives a boost to the estimated $1.7-billion project, which would run from the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw area to just outside Los Angeles International Airport.
Officials want to build the project with revenues from Measure R, the transportation sales tax that L.A. County voters approved last year.
Supporters of the Crenshaw line argue that it would provide a mass transit system to southwest Los Angeles, Inglewood and surrounding communities that are traditionally underserved by the county's rail network.
"Look at the transportation options that we have now," said Trevor Ware, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Urban League. "We have buses on Crenshaw and we see other neighborhoods that are developing other types of transportation options. To have a decision made that we will have light rail -- that's so much faster and will have so much more of an economic impact -- we need that too."
The proposed line would run about 8 1/2 miles down Crenshaw Boulevard, starting at Exposition Boulevard, past Leimert Park, shopping centers, through Inglewood and south to a stop near the airport and a connection with the Green Line.
About 2 1/2 miles of the project is proposed as a subway, including the section that would run underneath Leimert Park, said MTA project manager Roderick Diaz.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called the recommendation a "big victory" and has said he wants to find hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding so that more segments, if not all, of the project can be built as a subway.
The line will "improve air quality and serve as an economic catalyst," Ridley-Thomas said in a news release. "This will also provide an efficient, clean mode of transportation that will connect to Los Angeles International Airport."
Crenshaw line supporters say that the project can be built using revenue strictly from Measure R. Other more expensive rail projects being proposed in Los Angeles would also require federal money, such as the Westside subway, which has a price tag of about $5 billion.
At least one community advocate, Damien Goodmon, said officials need to focus on potential safety problems on sections of the line that would run near areas with children.
"The section on Crenshaw Boulevard between 48th and 60th Street will be a rallying point for our community. The section, which abuts View Park Prep School and is just a block away from Crenshaw High School is currently only being studied as street-level with no option for underground. We disagree with this recommendation by staff," said Goodmon, who is part of the South Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's Joint Committee on Rail Transit.