Commission Restarting Valley Rail Route Study
The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission on Wednesday voted to restart an environmental study of San Fernando Valley rail routes, ending a year’s delay triggered by homeowner opposition.
The 11-month study is to provide the basis for choosing between two proposed routes and for determining whether the rail system should be subway or above-ground light rail.
The committee voted 9 to 1 to approve the $2.1-million study, which will focus on four cross-Valley route options.
Three options would utilize the Southern Pacific railroad right of way that follows Chandler Boulevard, Oxnard Street, Victory Boulevard and Topham Street from North Hollywood to Warner Center.
They are an all-subway extension of the downtown-to-North Hollywood Metro Rail subway, a Metro Rail extension that is subway in residential areas but is placed in a deep trench or is elevated in other areas, and a light-rail line placed in a shallow trench flanked by earthen berms.
Also to be studied is an elevated Metro Rail extension along the Ventura Freeway shoulder from Universal City to Warner Center.
One year ago, the commission, in the face of mushrooming opposition, abruptly halted a study of the environmental impacts of five proposed cross-Valley routes, including the two surviving routes.
Opponents, almost all of whom own homes along the proposed routes, contend that the trains would bring noise, congestion and ground vibrations.
In shelving the study, commissioners said they were irked that Valley elected officials were staying neutral in the controversy, forcing the commission to take the political heat.
The Los Angeles City Council responded to that commission prodding by creating a 31-member advisory committee to choose a route.
After 16 fractious meetings, 21 committee members endorsed both the Chandler-Victory and Ventura Freeway routes, while 8 members advocated a north-south line parallel to San Fernando Road from Sylmar to downtown Los Angeles.
The council, heavily lobbied by all sides, could not agree on a route. So council members endorsed and forwarded all three routes to the commission, whose members include the five county supervisors and elected officials from cities in the county.
In September, commissioners accepted the council recommendation except for the San Fernando Road route. Commissioners reaffirmed their long-held policy that an east-west route was the Valley’s highest priority, voting to study the San Fernando Road route only if the city and county paid the $200,000 cost.
Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, a staunch advocate of the proposed San Fernando Road line, cast the lone dissenting vote Wednesday to protest the commission’s refusal to pay for studying that route.
Other commissioners argued that the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Torrance are paying the costs of studying proposed rail lines that, like the San Fernando Road route, have not been assigned a high priority.
Holden acknowledged that as chairman of the City Council’s Transportation and Traffic Committee, he has bottled up a motion to pay the city’s $150,000 share of the study.
County supervisors already have voted to contribute their $50,000 share.
Under the contract with Gruen Associates, a first draft of the Valley study is expected to be completed in July. The draft is expected to recommend route design details, including station sites, and to estimate the cost of each option.
Commission staff members have estimated that the light-rail line would cost about $750 million while the all-subway option would run about $3 billion.