Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has joined the fight to bring an additional light rail station to Westchester on the Crenshaw/LAX Corridor.
The councilman, who represents Westchester and is a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors, is asking supporters to sign an online petition to back a motion by county Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe for transit authorities to include a stop at Hindry Avenue in the construction bids for the light rail line.
“Supervisor Knabe’s motion to include the Hindry/Westchester station in the upcoming Crenshaw/LAX Corridor project construction bids would provide for a future Westchester station if it can be designed and constructed within the project budget,” the petition states. “The motion would also keep open the opportunity to pay for a station from sources outside the Metro budget, should funding become available.
“A Hindry station could spur the type of urban renewal that would bring vast economic and community benefits to this under-utilized corridor in Westchester,” the online petition continues. “Further, it would close an unusually long gap of 3.5 miles between stations in the currently approved project.”
In his last act as the supervisor for Westchester, Knabe submitted a motion earlier this month to include the Hindry station, which has been cleared environmentally by MTA. Under the county’s approved redistricting map, Westchester is now represented by Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“An at-grade station alternative near Hindry should be advanced in the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project’s design and construction (request for proposal), in a manner similar to but not competing with the Vernon (Leimert Park) station, in order to not preclude a station in Westchester if that station can be designed and constructed within the project budget,” Knabe’s motion reads.
“It is appropriate at this time, to advance the concept of a Westchester station by taking this important step toward making it a reality.”
Westchester residents have been clamoring for a second station since the Metro board approved the environmental impact report Sept. 25.
The final stop on the Crenshaw/LAX line is located at Aviation and Century boulevards in Westchester, but because it is the end of the line many residents don’t consider it to be a Westchester station.
Metro’s Construction Committee approved Knabe’s motion unanimously Nov. 18 and recommended the motion for approval to the full board.
Westchester resident Denny Schneider said he is grateful that Knabe sought to keep Westchester in the running for another station, even if he no longer represents the area.
“I’m very thankful to Don Knabe for stepping up and helping to protect our community,” said Schneider, a longtime mass transit enthusiast.
Rosendahl said he was “very, very upset,” when he learned that an Aviation/Manchester station in Westchester, which had been considered as an optional stop, was not included when the EIR was accepted by the board.
“That station will have value to anyone in Westchester who wants to go to the airport or who wants to take the Crenshaw line to other destinations,” the councilman told The Argonaut.
Ken Alpern, the co-chair of the Transit Coalition and a mass transit supporter, echoed Rosendahl’s belief about the lag in mileage between light rail stations.
“We cannot have a light rail line have a 3.5-mile gap between stations and deny the Westside, to say nothing of adjacent Inglewood, access to this taxpayer-funded public works project,” Alpern, a Mar Vista resident, said.
MTA Project Manager Roderick Diaz said there were two reasons why Manchester/Aviation was not part of the Metro board’s plans when it voted on the EIR in September.
“The ridership numbers at Manchester and Aviation were among the lowest projected numbers for the line,” he said. “We also received a lot of negative comments about building a station at that location.”
While most residents who have spoken with The Argonaut say the Hindry station would be preferable than no second light rail stop, others feel the Aviation and Manchester stop would serve the community in the broadest fashion.
According to Metro estimates, expenditures for the Hindry station would be approximately $11.6 million, and the Manchester/Aviation stop would cost in the neighborhood of $81.8 million. The latter station would be an above grade, or aerial alignment, while Hindry is budgeted for ground level, or an at-grade alignment.
Alpern said Metro officials should have let the public know the disparity in cost between the two stations before the EIR was approved.
“While I will continue to support Roderick Diaz and his Metro team in their efforts to build the Crenshaw project, it is rather disappointing that we did not know the full cost and challenges of building the station at Manchester/Aviation until one to two months before the final EIR was approved by the Metro board,” Alpern lamented.
“Had we known in the spring of this year that building a station at Manchester/Aviation would involve straightening out the rail right-of-way through land acquisitions, and that it is not safe or cost-effective to build a Manchester/Aviation station because of its location on a curved portion of the track, we would have revisited the $15-20 million Hindry option months ago.”
Rosendahl said he has had informal conversations with Ridley-Thomas regarding his petition. “He was extremely open and showed no resistance to it,” the councilman responded when asked about the supervisor’s reaction to Rosendahl’s Hindry petition.
Alpern, the vice chair of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Westsiders have rallied to adjust to the newfound reality of the costs of building a station near Manchester and Aviation as they did when Metro was considering Westchester for a rail car maintenance facility two years ago.
“As it stands, only now does Westchester and the Westside know the full story of building a Westchester station, and it has quickly shown the same flexibility and cooperation as it did when it allowed Metro to build the controversial rail yard in Westchester and avoid a yearslong lawsuit between different cities and Metro,” Alpern recalled.
“I’m entirely grateful and supportive of Don Knabe’s efforts to ensure that the Hindry station gets a chance at being built, and I’m equally supportive of (Rosendahl’s) petition and other efforts to create a Westchester station for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line.”
Like many of his constituents, Rosendahl prefers the aerial alignment but recognizes that the cost of building either station has to be considered by the board.
“There’s an appreciation of value for the Manchester/Aviation station, but Hindry seems more plausible,” the councilman acknowledged. “It’s less expensive.”
Rosendahl thinks not considering either option was a disservice to Westchester.
“To ignore Westchester from a transportation standpoint was wrong and from a political standpoint was insulting,” asserted Rosendahl, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.
The 8.5-mile light rail project is expected to begin construction next year with completion anticipated by 2018.