The location of two stations for a new light rail line along with the site of a facility that will provide the upkeep of the train’s cars has long been a topic of interest for residents of east Westchester, and a presentation earlier this month gave them a glimpse at what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering.
Metro officials presented their updated plan to the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa at its July 6 meeting, outlining the four options for the maintenance facility that will service the tracks and the train cars, along with the planned stops in Westchester.
The light rail line will have at least one station where Westchester residents can board the light rail line, at Aviation and Century boulevards. An optional location, which a group of east Westchester homeowners have lobbied in favor of, could be located at Aviation and Manchester Avenue.
The latter stop would provide a link directly to Los Angeles International Airport with a People Mover to transport commuters to the airport.
The Crenshaw/ LAX Transit Corridor is a proposed 8.5-mile light rail line that will connect with both the Mid-Cities Exposition Light Rail Transit line, which runs from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City in its first phase, and the Green Line in a north-south configuration.
Metro officials say they have four options for a maintenance facility at locations along the rail line, three in Westchester and one in the city of Inglewood. Last year, the yard was scheduled to be constructed in El Segundo, but that city’s lawmakers stated their vociferous opposition to that plan and indicated that they were willing to file a legal action to keep it out the city’s boundaries.
None of the options include displacing the venerable Westchester Playhouse, which has been in existence for 60 years. Last year, one of the possible sites would have displaced the longtime community theater.
“These sites no longer involve Westchester Playhouse,” confirmed Roderick Diaz, the project manager of the Crenshaw/ LAX Corridor. “But others could involve the purchase or relocation of some of the other businesses in Westchester’s light industrial area.”
“This is wonderful news,” said Gail Bernardi, president of the playhouse, where the Kentwood Players theater group performs. “We are an integral part of the community and any community without art is sorely lacking.”
Diaz said Metro is visiting with all potentially affected business owners along the corridor.
“We have met with most of the property owners to explain what we are considering regarding the maintenance facility,” he said.
The three Westchester options include what Metro calls the “Manchester Portal,” a 28.4-acre site between Manchester and Arbor Vitae Street; the Arbor Vitae/Bellanca alternative, a 30.5-acre site in a light industrial area of Westchester near Bellanca Avenue; and a 29.8-acre parcel of vacant land near LAX called the Imperial Highway/Aviation alternative.
“Each has its own various issues and all will be evaluated in the final environmental impact report,” Diaz said.
Any of the four alternatives would be fine with Denny Schneider, a member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa. Schneider, who has been a leading voice for transportation matters in Westchester, would like to see a station at Manchester and Aviation built.
“There could be a lot of possibilities for a station there,” he said. “They could combine the maintenance facility with an upper level station.”
Diaz said transportation officials had not given the Manchester-Aviation stop a great deal of attention in past meetings.
“At the time, it was one of our lower ridership stations,” he explained. “But we understand there is support for a station there.”
Diaz said the location of the light rail maintenance yard and a possible second station location would be considered separately.
In addition, because the alignment along Manchester is planned for an above grade, or aerial structure, a stop there would have to be built above grade as well, Diaz said, and aerial alignments are more expensive than at grade, or ground level stations.
In November, Schneider rejected the possibility of a ground level station at that location.
“That is unacceptable, because it would block Manchester Avenue,” he said.
There are also economic benefits to the region, according to Dan Rosenfeld, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ senior deputy for economic development, sustainability and mobility.
Rosenfeld said the new light rail line could be viewed as a significant source of employment during an economic recession. “With a rapid bus plan, there would be 3,500 jobs created,” he said in an earlier interview, when Metro was deciding between a light rail plan and a rapid bus alternative for the corridor. “A light rail plan would generate 7,800 jobs.
“This is one of the significant benefits to the (light rail) option, and the supervisor views mass transit as a significant engine of economic development,” Rosenfeld added.
Since the Metro Board of Directors approved the light rail option and its draft environmental impact report in December, Diaz and his team have met with Westchester residents three times this spring.
“We’re also planning another round of public meetings in August,” the project manager added.
Schneider gave credit to Metro for being open to suggestions regarding the stations and the maintenance yard.
“They’re listening,” he said. “We’re pleased and we’re looking forward to having a very nice station at Manchester and Aviation.”
Diaz said the public meeting held in late August would address the location of the maintenance facility. Metro will hold later hearings on the possibility of adding an option light rail station.