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Ground Breaking Marks Start of L.A.-to-L.B. Line

Times Staff Writer

Calling it an historic event that will change the face of Los Angeles County, area political leaders Thursday broke ground on a $685-million, downtown-to-Long Beach commuter rail line promised to be the first link in a 150-mile network of trolleys and subway lines.

Mayor Tom Bradley, addressing a crowd of several hundred community leaders, transportation officials and transit consultants at the site of a planned Long Beach maintenance yard, said the 21-mile rail line will be “part of the great connection” between the proposed Metro Rail subway and a large web of trolley or light rail lines.

“Let’s build, build, build to the year 2000,” said a beaming Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who authored the voter-approved sales tax increase that is funding the project and who also fought to have the first line of the network run through his South-Central Los Angeles district.

The ground breaking marked the beginning of preliminary work, such as the removal of old freight tracks along the route by Southern Pacific Railroad.

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Construction on the maintenance yard will not begin until next summer. Partial service is expected to begin in 1989, and the line is scheduled to be fully operational the following year.

While Thursday’s speeches were heavily laden with congratulations, some significant issues that Los Angeles County Transportation Commission officials say could affect the project’s cost, impact on street traffic and ridership remain unresolved.

For one, the commission, a regional panel of representatives of cities and the county that is overseeing the light rail project, has not yet reached agreement with officials in Compton. City officials say that they already have a problem with freight trains disrupting traffic in Compton’s downtown business district. The officials say a light rail line would just aggravate the congestion, and they oppose building the transit project through Compton unless freight traffic can be rerouted around the downtown area.

Injecting a downbeat note into Thursday’s fanfare, Compton Mayor Walter Tucker warned the audience that his city will “die on the vine” unless the commission builds more bridges to separate freight trains and street traffic. Each of those bridges--so-called grade separations--can cost several million dollars.

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Chairwoman Jacki Bacharach said the commission can only spend its funds for transit projects and is still negotiating the freight train issue. Rick Richmond, executive director of the commission, said the commission has the authority to move ahead on the project without Compton’s approval, but he said that clearly is undesirable.

A Nov. 13 public hearing on the freight train diversion plan is scheduled at Compton City Hall.

Also unresolved is how the trolleys will cross major east-west streets, such as Imperial Highway and Florence Avenue. Many transportation experts, including Southern California Rapid Transit District officials who will operate the line, say traffic signals should stop traffic and allow the trolleys to pass. Others, including county traffic engineers, say that will cause significantly more traffic congestion on surface streets. They want the commission to build bridges to carry the trains over the streets--a proposal that could add as much as $117 million to the project.

WORKING ON THE RAIL LINE

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Los Angeles-area city and county officials broke ground Thursday on a $685-million downtown-to-Long Beach rail commuter line--expected to be the first operational link in a 150-mile commuter system. Here’s the construction schedule:

1985--Preliminary work begins, including removal of old freight tracks along a right of way acquired from Southern Pacific; relocation of utilities along the route.

1986--First major construction contracts, beginning with main service yard in Long Beach, are awarded. Ordering of large equipment begins.

1987-88--Peak construction period with several contractors working simultaneously on different sections of the 21-mile route. Work includes building stations, park-and-ride lots and laying new track in railroad right of way, along streets in downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, and across major boulevards. Construction of subway portion of route under Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles begins. Also, work begins on joint project with Southern California Rapid Transit District to build downtown Metro Rail subway/Light Rail station beneath 7th and Flower streets.

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1989--Vehicle and systems testing begins. Operators trained. Late in year, partial commuter service from south of downtown to Long Beach begins.

1990--Full route service begins.


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