Panel Keeps Victory Blvd. in Picture for Trolley Route

Times Staff Writer

A county transportation panel recommended Friday that Victory Boulevard not be eliminated as a possible route for a proposed Valley trolley line, despite suggestions by staff engineers that the route would be "too costly and disruptive to warrant further analysis."

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission's Rapid Transit Committee voted 4 to 1 against discarding Victory, saying it should be held in reserve in the event detailed cost and engineering studies find that apparently superior routes along Chandler or Burbank Boulevard are unacceptable.

The committee recommendation is scheduled for a vote by the full commission Wednesday.

The committee also voted 3 to 2 against a resolution calling for the entire 14.3-mile trolley line to be built on elevated structures to avert conflict with auto traffic. Those voting against the motion said the pending engineering studies will show if parts of the line should be elevated.

Staff Engineers Quoted

Commission staff engineers said last week that either Chandler Boulevard or Burbank Boulevard might serve as the eastern leg of the proposed trolley line, but that Victory would not work. They said that, for Victory to handle existing auto traffic and a trolley line as well, more than five miles of the street would have to be widened 30 feet or the entire segment would have to be built on elevated structures.

But Marcia Mednick, a commissioner and member of the transit committee, said the Victory alternative should be held in reserve in case Burbank or Chandler prove unworkable "in terms of cost or acceptability to the community." Her suggestion, endorsed by the panel, called for cost and engineering studies to focus on Burbank and Chandler without putting Victory out of the running.

The committee went along with the staff in recommending that a trolley loop around the Warner Center area be dropped from further study because of traffic concerns, but that three other options for serving that area be retained for detailed study. The route studies could be completed this summer, commission officials have said.

Jewish Group Consulted

Commission staff also said Friday that they have begun negotiating with representatives of the Orthodox Jewish community on Chandler to see if its concern about a route there can be resolved. The group, which includes hundreds of people who live and worship in the area, has mounted the only well-organized opposition to any of the route alternatives. The group has the backing of several political figures, including County Supervisor Ed Edelman, State Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) and City Councilman Joel Wachs.

The trolley line, which probably would not be completed until the mid-1990s, is intended to extend rail service to Canoga Park from North Hollywood, where the planned Metro Rail subway would extend to downtown Los Angeles.

The system is expected to cost from $300 million to $800 million.

The line would be funded through the half-cent sales tax voters approved in 1980 for transportation improvements, including a 150-mile countywide rail transportation network. The commission has already committed sales tax funds to help build Metro Rail and to build a light-rail line from Long Beach to Los Angeles and a second light-rail system along the Century Freeway.

The Valley trolley would have to compete with other planned light-rail segments for an early construction start.

On Rail Right of Way

Commission planners would like to run the trolley mainly or wholly on the Southern Pacific railroad right of way, which the commission is negotiating to acquire. But the rail line--now lightly used for freight service--runs part of the way down Chandler. Opponents there have forced the commission to consider laying the tracks on Burbank or Victory and rejoining the right of way near Woodley Avenue.

Members of the Orthodox community, which has a major synagogue and several schools and academies along Chandler, are concerned that trolley noise, vibration and safety hazards would disrupt the neighborhood's religious and social life.

But commission officials said they met with leaders of the group two weeks ago and are planning further meetings to see if some compromise is possible.

Steve Lantz, community relations officer for the commission, said, "The elected officials have said to us . . . 'Don't even consider Chandler unless you've worked it out with the community.' "

The community wants "to know what they're facing and what we're willing to do to mitigate the impacts of the rail," Lantz said.

Purposes Described

The meetings will be designed to "identify their concerns clearly and see what we would need to do for them to be able to modify their opposition."

Larry Blumenstein, a leader of the Orthodox community, said his group still doesn't "believe Chandler to be the correct place for a light-rail system, but since it seems to make sense to other people, we're willing to listen to their side."

Roy Donley, an alternate who represents County Supervisor Mike Antonovich on the commission and the rapid transit committee, argued that the Valley line, regardless of the route, should not operate at street level, where he said it could worsen traffic problems.

"I don't think a surface train will do much for us in the Valley," he said.

But Donley's motion favoring a "totally grade-separated aerial system" was defeated 3 to 2, with Walter King, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn's alternate, voting with Donley.

Commission planners have said the trolley line would probably need aerial "flyovers" at some intersections to avoid traffic jams, but that an entirely aerial line could double the price of the system.

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