Advocates for an extension of the Metro Green Line to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) held a forum in Westchester Monday, May 21st, to explain to interested community members the purpose of the group and the reasons for the organization’s support for the light rail expansion.

“This is something that I have been fighting for over a period of several years,” Ken Alpern told The Argonaut prior to the meeting. Alpern is co-chair of the Friends of the Green Line, an advocacy group that supports the light rail extension.

“It’s exhilarating to see that Metro and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) are all working together on (the extension).”

LAWA is the City of Los Angeles Agency that owns the city’s four airports, including LAX.

According to Alpern, in the past, “there had been a great deal of friction” between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro or MTA) and LAWA and the city government of Los Angeles.

“It was a case of politics trumping transportation,” Alpern recalled, referring to turf wars that all three entities waged against each other. “Now there is a new paradigm for transportation,” he said.

Alpern, a dermatologist and a Mar Vista homeowner, opened the meeting with a presentation that described what his organization has been doing for several years to make the airport extension a reality. He explained that the group was created after September 11th, 2001 to “explore and advocate for a complete Green Line to serve the entire county.”

While researching the history of the light rail line, Friends of the Green Line discovered that there had been many unsuccessful attempts to link it to the airport. “We also discovered that there is an environmental impact report (EIR), approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that extends the Green Line to Marina del Rey and the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach,” said Alpern.

These discoveries, among others, led them to the conclusion that the only reasonable alternative was to push for the long-delayed extension of the line to “fill in the gaps,” as Alpern puts it.

The proposed extension has garnered a great deal of support from local, county, state and national elected officials. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe and Congresswoman Jane Harman of Venice are all strong backers of Assembly Bill (AB) 889, legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance.

AB 889 would create a joint powers authority that would supervise construction of the planned rail expansion, similar in nature to the committee created to oversee the building of the Mid-Cities Exposition Light Rail Line. The Expo Line, as it is known by most rail advocates and Metro personnel, is currently under construction and is slated to run from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City in its initial stage, and perhaps eventually to Santa Monica.

“In large part, this bill is born out of frustration over a long period of time,” said Lieu spokesman David Ford.

“This bill enjoys wide bipartisan support,” he continued. “The South Bay has been waiting for this extension for a long time.”

Following the community forum Rosendahl said, “Ken [Alpern] and the Friends of the Green Line have been working very closely with us on this important regional issue.”

Plans have been in the works for more than a decade to expand the Green Line, which extends from Norwalk to Aviation Boulevard near LAX, then continues south to Redondo Beach. Due to funding constraints, the extension was shelved for nearly 13 years.

“There’s very limited funding for transit projects in Los Angeles, and there are a lot of projects to build,” David Mieger pointed out. He is deputy executive officer for Westside Area Planning, Transportation, Development and Implementation.

Mieger, who attended the Westchester meeting, noted that Rosendahl’s office has been instrumental in refocusing attention on improved transit for the Westside.

The councilman, Harman, Knabe and State Senator Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach belong to the Green Line Coalition, a group of legislators who have been actively advocating for the expansion of the light rail line.

There have been some recommendations to the MTA board in opposition of the proposed legislation, and that dismays Alpern.

“It’s really unfortunate that [MTA] is being so shortsighted on [AB 889],” the co-chair of the Friends of the Green Line said.

Mieger said that in some form, his organization is committed to a project that will extend to the airport, which would be funded by other sources.

“An extension to LAX is in MTA’s long-range plans,” he confirmed.

At Argonaut press time ,LAWA officials had not returned calls for this story.

AB 889 reached the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the Legislature Wednesday, May 22nd. The committee oversees all legislation that can have a fiscal impact on the state.