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Panel Calls for Council to Decide Metro Rail Route

Times Staff Writer

A key Los Angeles County transit panel on Monday moved to force the Los Angeles City Council to choose between the San Fernando Valley and other sections of the city in the competition for the next Metro Rail extension.

If the subway is to be extended westward across the Valley in lieu of a light-rail line, as the council has suggested, then council members should promptly make the politically painful decision to take money away from planned Westside and Eastside extensions, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission’s Transit Committee decided.

And that decision should be made before more money is spent studying cross-Valley light-rail routes, the committee majority voted.

“I regret placing the council on the hot seat,” said commission member Jacki Bacharach, a Rancho Palos Verdes councilwoman. “But as it now stands, we’re the ones on the hot seat.”

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If the committee action is upheld by the full commission next week, it could place the council at the center of a fierce tug-of-war over the next phase of Metro Rail construction.

Unaware of Move

Santa Monica Councilwoman Christine Reed, who chairs the Transit Committee, said Westside and Eastside rail proponents were unaware that the Valley has begun eyeing the limited pool of Metro Rail funds.

“If they knew this was a serious move, they would fill this room” with protesters, she said.

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The council three weeks ago sent a report to the commission recommending further study of three possible light-rail routes and a rival plan for a westward extension across the Valley of the downtown-to-North Hollywood Metro Rail system, which is expected to be completed to Lankershim and Chandler boulevards by 1997.

Council-recommended light-rail routes are from Universal City to Warner Center along the Ventura Freeway, from North Hollywood to Warner Center along a Southern Pacific railroad freight line that parallels Chandler and Victory boulevards, and from Union Station to Sylmar along the Southern Pacific main line that parallels San Fernando Road.

Both east-west light-rail routes pass through residential areas and have triggered strong protests from well-organized homeowner groups that say the trains would bring intolerable noise and visual blight to their neighborhoods.

No precise route has been suggested for the Metro Rail extension, favored by many groups fighting light rail. But others, including some business groups, oppose consideration of a cross-Valley subway, fearing that it would never be built because of the cost.

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If the commission follows its committee’s recommendation, it would be the second time the issue of Valley rail has been tossed into the council’s lap.

Last November, the commission halted a $1.6-million study of five cross-Valley light-rail routes because of mushrooming opposition to each of the routes it was studying.

The commission challenged the council to designate a route that has widespread support.

The council, with several members complaining that the commission has the responsibility to pick routes, responded by recommending the three light-rail routes, plus the possibility of a Valley subway extension.

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Narrowing Down Options

The commission staff recommended that the Union Station-to-Sylmar route be dropped because the east-west need was greater, that the freeway route be studied only as a Metro Rail extension and that several combinations of subway and surface line be studied for the Chandler-Victory route. When the yearlong study is completed, it will provide the basis for making critical decisions, the staff said.

But a majority of committee members Monday were unwilling to see more studies until the question of subway versus ground-level light-rail is resolved.

Bacharach, a Rancho Palos Verdes councilwoman, said that Los Angeles council members have told her that “subway is the only way they see this going, so let’s address that now.”

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Joining Reed and Bacharach in the voting was Jeff Jenkins, an aide to Supervisor Pete Schabarum, who represents the San Gabriel Valley.

Ray Remy, who represents Mayor Tom Bradley on the commission, voted against the majority, saying a study of all routes would provide a factual basis “in the event the Valley wants to select a cheaper system at a later time.”

And Rosa Kortizija, representing Supervisor Mike Antonovich, abstained. She said the supervisor continues to support construction of a monorail or magnetic-levitation line along the Ventura Freeway, from downtown to the Ventura County line.

The vote left homeowner and business leaders dissatisfied.

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Encino homeowner leader Gerald Silver, a staunch opponent of both east-west light-rail lines, complained that “it does nothing to resolve or remove the threat to our communities. Everything is still hanging.”

“Metro Rail across the Valley is simply too expensive,” said Warner Center business leader Roger Stanard. “We should keep our sights on what is realistic, and that is light-rail with maybe some tunneling or subway sections.”


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