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Green Street, Railing Against Rail Line, Wins

Times Staff Writer

The Green Street transit mall proposal is ‘a planner’s delight and a realist’s nightmare.’

--Mayor William E. Thomson Jr.

Business and property owners on Green Street won a victory Tuesday in their battle to persuade the Pasadena Board of Directors to route a proposed regional light-rail line down the center of the Foothill Freeway, (Interstate 210) and keep it off their street.

Although they deferred a decision on the route until April 11, a majority of the board made it clear that it agrees with owners of businesses and property there that Green Street would be a poor choice. The board instructed the city’s light-rail alignment task force, which has been studying three potential routes--including two involving Green Street--to consider the statements made by board members and make a recommendation Wednesday so that the board can act the following week.

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Board’s Choice Is Clear

D. Gordon Bagby, task force chairman, said it is clear that the board wants the rail line to follow the freeway east through Pasadena.

The proposed rail line from Los Angeles would enter Pasadena along the Santa Fe railroad right of way and proceed north. Then it would turn east, either on the railroad right of way in the center of the Foothill Freeway or on surface streets.

One plan would convert Green Street into a transit mall between Raymond Avenue and Hill Street, eliminating most auto traffic. Another plan would use Colorado Boulevard for the eastbound rail line and Green Street for the westbound line. Both lines would turn north at Hill Street and follow a route east near Walnut Street.

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Leaders of an association formed to oppose the use of Green Street told the board Tuesday that 95% of the business and property owners contacted along the street are against the plan.

John Mangoni, a pediatrician with an office on Green Street, said: “When I found out about the light-rail system possibly coming down Green Street, I was, to say the least, horrified, disappointed and confused--confused as to why Pasadena would want to turn a beautiful tree-lined street into a train corridor.”

The light-rail line to Pasadena would be an extension of a rail line now under construction by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission between Long Beach and Los Angeles. The system requires the use of station platforms that are about three feet high and 300 feet long to board cars that are 90 feet long.

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission is studying a number of possible extensions, including routes in the San Fernando Valley and along the coast, between the Century Freeway in El Segundo and Marina del Rey.

Marcia Jacobs, a businesswoman and property owner, said the conversion of Green into a transit mall could cost businesses 300 parking spaces and would restrict access to 70 driveways.

Businessman Jacob Maarse said the impact on his flower shop “would be disastrous.” He would not gain any business from a commuter rail line, he said, but would lose customers that now drive to his shop.

Douglas W. Fordyce, owner of a travel agency, said the effect on his business “would be devastating during construction, and if I survive, would be of minimal or no benefit” afterward.

PCC Support

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Most of the support for the Green Street route at Tuesday’s board meeting came from a spokesman for Pasadena City College and from several handicapped persons. PCC took the position that the Green Street route, which would pass the college, would be more convenient than a freeway line three blocks away.

Three persons who are disabled said the freeway route would be a disadvantage to them because stations would be remote from businesses and they would be required to travel on street overpasses and elevators to reach the line.

Director Kathryn Nack said, “I’m sympathetic to the needs of handicapped people and their means of using public transit, but I’m also optimistic that there can be devised in this era of good engineering design ways of getting up and down and back and forth from the freeway.” She also noted that the freeway line “is not that far from PCC.”

Mayor William E. Thomson Jr. said that if light rail is intended primarily as a commuter system, the clear choice is to put it along the freeway. He called the Green Street transit mall proposal “a planner’s delight and a realist’s nightmare.”

Director Jess Hughston proposed that the city board instruct its light-rail task force to drop the Green Street route and give priority to studying the freeway line. Director Rick Cole said he would never support the Green Street route, but warned against “short-circuiting” the planning process.

The light-rail task force is in the middle of engineering studies and had planned to recommend a route this summer. But the board instructed the task force Tuesday to speed up that process and make a recommendation Wednesday.

The city has been considering, in addition to the light-rail route, development of a trolley or bus system to operate within the city. Officials have solicited proposals for engineering studies and economic ones that would examine a trolley system on both rails and rubber tires.

Even if it used rails, the trolley system would be vastly different from the regional light-rail plan, since it would use smaller cars that could be boarded from the street level.

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