For the last couple of weeks, Metro has been hosting a second round of community meetings as part of the planning process for a northern extension of the Crenshaw light rail line (which is currently under construction from the LAX area to Exposition Blvd.) The Crenshaw Line Northern Extension would bring rail transit north from Exposition Blvd. to Hollywood, where travelers could connect to the Red Line going to either North Hollywood or points east and downtown.
When Metro held its last round of planning meetings for the Crenshaw Line Northern Extension, in March, there were five possible routes under consideration:
- One that woud go up San Vicente Blvd., and then veer east along Santa Monica Blvd. to Hollywood
- One that would go up La Cienega Blvd., then veer east to Hollywood
- One that would go up Fairfax Ave. to Santa Monica Blvd.
- One that would go up La Brea Ave. up to Hollywood, and…
- One that would go north to Olympic Blvd., then east to Vermont Ave., and north up Vermont to connect with the Red and Purple Lines at Wilshire Blvd.
According to Metro Project Director Roger Martin, the goal of the project is to provide faster transit service from the South Bay to the western part of Metro’s system – a 30-mile stretch that would connect to five of the ten most heavily-used bus lines in the city, as well as the Red and Purple Line subways.
And while all the proposed routes would serve regional travelers, the two western-most routes, along La Cienega and/or San Vicente, could also serve several major local desinations, such as the Beverly Center and Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
As originally presented, the plan was to begin construction in 2041, with service starting in 2047. The $2.24 billion funding would come from Measure M, prioritized after the completion of several other projects currently under construction.
Since March, however, the City of West Hollywood has expressed an interest in the project, and has been working to identify additional funding that could significantly accelerate the schedule. According to David Finn, who represented West Hollywood at last weeks’s meeting, the city could potentially contribute an additional $1.4 billion from four additional funding sources, which would allow the project to start and finish much earlier, without affecting the schedules of other Metro projects currently under construction or in the pipeline.
Also, according to David Mieger, Executive Officer for Transit Corridor Planning at Metro, that last round of meetings in March provided useful community feedback, which has resulted in some revisions to the original route proposals.
First, while the eastern-most Vermont alignment is still officially part of the initial proposals for a Crenshaw Line Northern Extension, it had little support from the community, and even Metro staff felt that the Vermont option would run close enough to other transit routes that it wouldn’t do much to extend the system’s reach. So while Vermont is still officially part of the presentation for now, it’s mostly being left undiscussed at this point…and most of the discussions and focus have shifted to the more western alignment options.
Among those, according to presenters at the meeting, a La Brea route would be both the cheapest, fastest, and most direct…and initially seemed to have the most support. But according to Mieger, population density dips on La Brea north of Wilshire, and there are few other “activity centers” along that route that would help to draw ridership.
The proposed Fairfax alignment, Mieger said, also had its fans in the first round of discussions, but there are several engineering considerations that make it difficult, if not impossible – the first being that it would have to make a hard right turn (90 degrees) at Santa Monica Blvd., which is extremely difficult for a train. Also, Mieger said, there is no room for a station right at the Fairfax/Santa Monica intersection, which means the station might have to be located too far away from the intersection to be convient for riders to that area.
So that leaves the La Cienega and San Vicente alignments currently attracting the most attention, especially with West Hollywood’s desire to get involved and support a project there.
And according to Mieger, at least a couple of possible modifications to a route through West Hollywood came out of the March round of community meetings. While the original plan (A) would have traveled up San Vicente, past Cedars Sinai, and then turned right at Santa Monica Blvd., a new option (A1) might be able to travel up San Vicente to La Cienega, and then go up La Cienega to Santa Monica Blvd., neatly bypassing a tricky spot where there’s an oil well behind the Bevery Center on San Vicente.
Another option, A2, would actually combine bits of the originally proposed Fairfax, La Cienega and San Vicente alignments, travelling up Fairfaxt to Beverly, then west on Beverly to La Cienega/San Vicente, and then continuing up San Vicente to Santa Monica Blvd.
This route would be the longest and most expensive of the choices currently under discussion, Mieger said, but it would also include the largest number of destinations, and ridership potential would be close to those of the originally proposed San Vicente and La Cienega routes. Also, it would not bisect the historic Carthay residential districts, as a San Vicente alignment would. Here’s a comparison:
During the presentation, some people did ask (and the Metro representatives said it’s a very common question) why the line was never planned to go straight up Creshaw Blvd. to Wilshire, and then under Hancock Park to Santa Monica Blvd., which seems to be the most direct route of all.
But according to the Metro reps, there were several good reasons for this. First, when the first part of the Crenshaw Line was planned, the Purple Line Subway Extension was also still in the planning process, and no one knew, at that point, whether or not there would be a subway station at Wilshire and Crenshaw (as it turns out, there will not be one there). This is what led to the original decision to build only the first part of the Crenshaw Line, up to Exposition Blvd., and then stop there for further planning.
Also, said the Metro reps, the Wilshire/Crenshaw area is very low density, and would not contribute many riders. And tunnelling for a long stretch underneath low-density, residential Hancock Park would have the same disadvantage – the ridership potential just isn’t as high as it is along major corridors such as La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega and San Vicente.
Addressing another frequently-asked question, Metro representatives said at last week’s meeting that decisions about where each of the routes might travel at, above, or below ground have not been made yet, though options at some locations are coming into focus. For example, said Mieger, a train running along San Vicente might divert to an elevated configuration to cross La Brea, since La Brea dips there, and it would be easier and safer to go over the traffic on La Brea instead of through it.
Also, Mieger said, crossing Wilshire at either Fairfax or La Cienega wouldn’t be possible, and any trains running there would have to go underground in those areas. Final grading decisions won’t be made, however, until after the final route is chosen.
Finally, the Metro representatives at last week’s meeting said that planning for the route is moving forward now, so it can be “shovel ready” and ready to kick into high gear as soon as funding is secured – whether that’s on the original schedule for 2041, or much sooner if the West Hollywood funding plan comes to fruition.
So with that goal in mind, Metro hopes to trim the choice of routes to just two or three in the next few months, and then take those choices to Metro’s Board of Directors later this fall for a final decision. And when that decision is made, an Environmental Impact Report will begin on the chosen alignment.
If you would like to weigh in on the alignment choices, or have other questions, please contact Metro at one of the options below…or plan to attend the one remaining meeting in this round of community outreach. It will be held on Tuesday, October 29 (tomorrow), from 6-8 p.m. at Rosewood Ave. Elementary School, 503 N. Croft Ave..
And, finally, for even more information, the presentation materials from the current round of community meetings are available at https://media.metro.net/projects_studies/crenshaw_northern_extension/images/presentation-cnext-2019-10.pdf