The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, brushing aside objections from angry homeowners, voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to resume a study of San Fernando Valley rail route options and declared its intent to pick a route by next March.
The commission’s 9-0 vote ended nearly two months of delay during which homeowners fighting rail routes that traverse their neighborhoods sought to have the routes deleted from the study.
The commission, which is building a countywide network of rail lines, also voted to grant a request from Valley rail backers to delay any action on two competing rail projects until March, 1990, so the Valley study can be completed.
Proponents had worried that the Valley might lose its place in line for a rail project.
After four hours of public testimony, much of it boisterous, from a crowd of about 300, commissioners voted to proceed with the state-mandated study with no major changes to the route options that they approved in September.
Routes under consideration in the $2.1-million study are the Ventura Freeway’s southern shoulder from the planned Universal City Metro Rail subway station to Warner Center, and a Southern Pacific railroad right of way that parallels Chandler and Victory boulevards from Metro Rail’s planned northern terminus on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood to Warner Center.
Both routes are being studied either as Metro Rail extensions or as light-rail lines requiring passengers bound for downtown to change trains at the Universal City or North Hollywood Metro Rail stations.
In addition, the freeway route is being studied as a fully elevated line and as an elevated line in commercial areas with a subway in residential areas.
Also to be studied are residential portions of the Chandler-Victory route either as a full subway or with track in a shallow trench surrounded by 4-foot earthen berms or in a deep trench with a metal grid on top.
In a change from its September vote, the commission decided Wednesday to study the possibility of building a rail line no farther west than the Sepulveda Basin at this time. Under that plan, a bus transfer station would be built at the basin to feed in passengers from points north and west.
At the behest of County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents most of the Valley and is a commission member, commissioners also directed that the report consider whether it would be better to use monorail or magnetic-levitation technology instead of conventional rail transit.
And the commission, acting on the motion of Mayor Tom Bradley, also a commissioner, agreed to forgo consideration of federal aid for a Metro Rail extension across the Valley.
Bradley argued that the federal study process is so complex that it “could unnecessarily delay the decision on Valley rail transit for at least five years.”
The commission’s decision not to seek federal funding, which staff members said would be difficult to secure in any case, left unanswered the question of how the commission would pay for most of the route options being studied.
The commission, which is building the Long Beach-Los Angeles and Century Freeway light-rail lines, has about $800 million available to build one more rail line before the turn of the century.
Cost estimates for proposed Valley options range from $900 million for a shallow-trenched line along the Chandler-Victory route to $3 billion for the freeway option that would be subway in residential areas and elevated in commercial areas, the commission staff said.
However, halting construction in the Sepulveda Basin reduces the estimates to $500 million for an all-elevated freeway line, $1.7 billion for a part-subway, part-elevated freeway line and $1.5 billion for a part-subway, part-elevated line along Chandler-Victory.
Most rail proponents at the downtown hearing represented the business community. They argued that congestion is strangling the Valley and that polls show wide support for an east-west line.
Homeowner opponents said they would favor any line that did not intrude into their neighborhoods. They said trains running as often as every three minutes would bring intolerable noise and congestion to their streets.
They said an all-subway line would be acceptable.
“We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to hear it. We don’t want to feel it,” said Julie Fine, a West Valley crusader against rail.
But David Fleming, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., warned of the high cost of the subway, saying, “Don’t kill this by making it financially impossible.”
Opposition leaders said state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana) is expected to reintroduce legislation that would all but force the commission to build a cross-Valley line and to place it as a subway in residential areas.
Robbins, interviewed by telephone from Sacramento Wednesday, said that he has had trouble getting all parties to agree on details and that it is “conceivable but not likely” that he will abandon the legislative effort.
Commission staff members said they expect a draft version of the study, which will specify the costs and ridership estimates for each option, to be available by October.
Rival routes, for which studies are nearly complete, are a Pasadena-to-downtown line and a northern extension of the Century Freeway line past Los Angeles International Airport to Marina del Rey.