Funds OKd for rail line to LAX

After some last-minute fiscal reshuffling, transportation officials gave a green light to the proposed Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line on Thursday, capping years of controversy over the train’s route through South Los Angeles.

The board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority unanimously approved the Crenshaw Line’s $2.06-billion budget, the largest in the agency’s history, and awarded the joint project contract to Walsh Construction and J.F. Shea Co.

The 8.5-mile line, expected to open in 2019, will connect the Expo Line to the Green Line. It’s partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax Los Angeles County voters passed in 2008. When major construction begins next year, the Crenshaw Line will be one of five simultaneous significant rail projects in the county.

“What you have here is a regional, rational and equitable transportation plan,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, adding the line will reduce congestion and air pollution and increase jobs along Crenshaw Boulevard.


Ridley-Thomas was one of the officials who led the charge to build the Crenshaw Line, which was discussed for more than two decades. The issue came to the forefront after county voters passed Measure R. Ridley-Thomas and South L.A. activists successfully fought to add two stations to the route, including a stop in Leimert Park Village, a hub of African American culture and history.

The project’s funding includes an extra $160 million, in case construction runs over budget. Officials had planned to take the extra money from a variety of other projects, including nearly $100 million for South Bay highway and road improvements.

But after cities protested, officials voted to take the money instead from two projects funded by Proposition C, another half-cent sales tax that county voters passed in 1990.

Activists had urged Metro to hire black workers to build the line, but the federal government prohibits hiring based on race. The Crenshaw Line contractors have agreed that construction workers from ZIP Codes with low income and chronic unemployment -- many of which are in South L.A. -- will handle many of the project work hours.

In a separate motion Thursday, the Metro board voted to study an option to connect the Crenshaw Line to a facility along 96th Street, where travelers would take a transfer to the airport.