Politics, government and public life for Southern California

U.S. Transportation Secretary helps break ground on Crenshaw line

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Angelenos are one step closer to taking light rail to the airport.

Ground was broken Tuesday on the first stop of the Crenshaw line. When complete in 2019, it will connect the Expo line to the Green line and, eventually,  take passengers all the way to LAX.  

The $2 billion project is financed by the 2008 voter-approved Measure R sales tax, with $130 million from the federal government. The biggest infusion of ready cash comes in the form of a loan from the federal government. Half a billion dollars, which is half the entire federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act budget, will be loaned to Metro.

Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, credited former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for bringing the Chamber of Commerce and unions to Washington to lobby for federal dollars to build the project now instead of waiting for the sales tax dollars to accumulate.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted that the Crenshaw community hasn't had light rail since 1955. He said the goal for transportation dollars was to "do more than just get us places better, that we can also make places better in the process."

After shovels of ceremonial dirt were tossed around by the politicos, heavy machinery took a bite out of a building at the corner of Crenshaw and Exposition, the first step in creating one of three underground stations for the Crenshaw line. Community activists want more of the line to be underground and have filed a lawsuit.

Damien Goodmon, head of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, said the part of the line that runs aboveground between 48th and 59th streets will "devastate" what he called "the last African-American business corridor in Southern California."  Goodmon cited a contractor not working on the project who estimated it would cost an additional $60 million to build that portion of the line underground. The coalition has filed a civil rights lawsuit over the subway stops, which will be heard February 6. 

The project is predicted to create more than 18,000 jobs. Activists want more of them to go to local workers. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he'll press for more local jobs when he takes over as chairman of the Metro board this summer. But that could be difficult. Because there's federal money in the project, hiring rules are in effect that prohibit "local geographic preferences." Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass said she's introduced legislation that would give agencies more flexibility in hiring in local areas.


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