The staff of the county Transportation Commission has recommended Long Beach Boulevard as the route for the Long Beach section of a proposed 22.5-mile trolley that would run between this city's downtown and downtown Los Angeles.
The commission staff favors Long Beach Boulevard because that route would cost less to build and operate than a route along the Los Angeles River, while serving about the same number of riders, said commission spokeswoman Robin McCarthy.
Where to place tracks for the southern section of the trolley--officially called "light rail"--has been a controversial matter here for two years. The most recent arguments have raged between backers of the boulevard route and those who favor running the tracks alongside the Los Angeles River with an elevated extension passing through the World Trade Center and ending near City Hall.
Auto merchants along the boulevard favor the river route. Residents of the Wrigley District near the river favor the boulevard.
With the staff recommendation, the selection process is heading toward a close. The Long Beach City Council is scheduled to endorse a route Tuesday. After two more hearings, March 25 and 27, the final decision on whether and where to build the entire system will be made by the transportation commission members. If the commission decides to build the trolley line, it will be financed by Proposition A, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by county voters in 1980. Construction would start in the fall and the system is expected to be operating by 1989.
Land acquisition and construction along the boulevard would cost $47.5 million, while the river route would cost $57.1 million, McCarthy said. Yearly operating costs would be $8.4 million for the boulevard and $8.5 million for the river route.
"We also felt there was considerable public support for Long Beach Boulevard, whereas support was moderate, though vocal, for the river route," McCarthy said.
On Monday, the directors of Long Beach Chamber of Commerce also endorsed the boulevard route, a spokeswoman for the organization said. The chamber had earlier favored the river route, as does another merchants' group, Downtown Long Beach Associates.