The Los Angeles City Council’s recent approval of the purchase of a 20-acre parking lot adjacent to Los Angeles Interna- tional Airport (LAX) has aroused the interest of Metro Green Line advocates.
The council authorized buying the parcel east of Terminal One for $126.5 million on July 10th. The property, which is operated under the name Park One, is near Parking Lot C on Sepulveda Boulevard in Westchester, a site that Green Line supporters had previously been eyeing as a future transit hub for rail passengers going to and leaving the airport.
Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency which operates LAX, had chosen not to buy the parcel in the past when it was said to be available.
“This is great news,” said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Westchester and LAX. “It opens up more options for us now, including getting the Green Line deeper into the airport.”
On Tuesday, July 21st, the council authorized a feasibility study that will be conducted by the LAX Development Program to determine if the parking lot could be a suitable site for a light rail station.
“We definitely plan on following through with the study,” LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles told The Argonaut.
Airport officials say that a survey could take approximately six months to complete.
“When there is a contractor in place, we’ll have a better understanding of when the study will be completed,” Castles explained. “We will look to have some preliminary thoughts (within the council’s time frame).”
Supporters of the Green Line, which runs east to west from Redondo Beach to Norwalk, have been exploring the possibility of having the light rail line come as close as possible to LAX or to actually enter onto the airport’s premises for several years.
They say that Los Angeles is the only large city in the nation that does not have a rail system that goes onto airport grounds and it has the potential to be beneficial for both travelers and LAX employees.
“It makes no sense that we don’t have a light rail that goes into the airport,” said Rosendahl.
LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey called the deal “a strategic purchase opportunity of a site directly adjacent to LAX.”
“It is the last piece of real property not separated from LAX by a major roadway not owned by LAWA,” Lindsey said. “Our ability to purchase the property is a unique opportunity.”
The Board of Airport Commissioners approved the lot purchase on June 22nd.
“This is so very long overdue, and I am grateful to Bill Rosen- dahl, (Councilwoman) Janice Hahn and those officials at LAWA and Los Angeles that are working to make this connection happen,” said Ken Alpern, a Mar Vista resident who is the co-chair of the Friends of the Green Line, a light rail advocacy organization.
Representatives of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) also expressed satisfaction with the council’s decisions.
“We’re glad that the city and airport officials are in full support of connecting LAX to our regional transit system,” said Roderick Diaz, Metro’s transportation planning manager for the South Bay.
Rosendahl, who will become the chair of the council’s Transportation Committee next month, said that the purchase of the lot and the authorization of the feasibility study on the Green Line should excite Westside light rail supporters.
“This is a chance to really tackle the gridlock that we have on our Westside streets,” the councilman said. “We now have a variety of terrific options that we can use to possibly get more people out of their cars and to reduce the pollution that we are breathing into our lungs every day.”
The councilman also gave credit to state Sen. Jenny Oropeza for her work in Sacramento on Measure R, the transportation measure that will provide over $40 million to transportation projects, including the Green Line, over the next 30 years by raising the county sales tax by a half-cent. The initiative passed last November.
While he supports the council’s actions, Alpern indicated that he believes that certain concerns regarding Westside transportation remain.
“I want to caution that despite bringing the LAX/Green Line connection closer to reality, there are still issues to be resolved, much of which was addressed by the recent Green Line Interagency Task Force supported by Councilman Rosendahl,” he said. “This potential station near Terminal One does not enhance access to LAX for those automobile commuters north of LAX, only those south and east of LAX,” said the Transit Coalition co-chair.
Alpern feels that the original goal of getting the Green Line to Parking Lot C on Sepulveda Boulevard should still be pursued to allow for remote access by cars and taxis coming from the Westside.
Castles said that even though the feasibility study for the Green Line would take place and the lot has been purchased, the final decision to have a light rail station at the parking lot site rests with local transportation officials.
“The ultimate decision will be made by Metro,” she said.
Metro authorities indicated that they are ready to work with LAWA and the City Council on the possibility of bringing the Green Line closer to the airport.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the city and LAWA officials to ensure that the Metro Green Line, the Crenshaw Corridor, other Measure R projects, and the airport’s People Mover create a seamless connection to passengers and workers throughout the entire airport,” Diaz said.