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Crenshaw Rail Line still has a key issue to overcome

Eleven additional blocks of tunneling is a sticking point

Stanley O. Williford | 6/6/2013, 6 a.m.
Arthur T. Leahy, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, excited that the MTA board had finally authored a resolution to ...
Work being done along Crenshaw Boulevard in preparation for the Crenshaw Rail Line. Photo by Gary Leonard for Metro

Arthur T. Leahy, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, excited that the MTA board had finally authored a resolution to fund both the Leimert Park Village Station and Florence/Hindry Station in Inglewood, called to assure that the two Crenshaw Line projects would be done.

“They are part of the base line and that means they’re going to get built,” said Leahy. He said the Crenshaw Rail Line would be “around a $2 billion project.”

When asked about a move to extend the underground portion the another 11 blocks—from 43rd Place to 54th Street—that the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is asking for, he did not express confidence that the additional undergrounding would be done. “It doesn’t look promising now. It’s not environmentally cleared, and it would cause about a two-year delay,” he said.

According to Leahy, that part of Crenshaw is a wide boulevard. “We don’t think there’s a need to be grade-separated right there. In other places we did think so. The Crenshaw line has more grade separation than any other rail line. It’s a very nice project we’re getting ready to build.”

He spoke of the line offering riders greater access to places like downtown, LAX, Santa Monica and Culver City since the line will eventually connect with the Green and Expo lines.

“We think we’re going to have a great project,” he said of the project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2019. “Our goal is to make an award to a contractor at the June [27] meeting.” Leahy said there were multiple proposals, but would not say how many contractors are vying for the job.

Leahy said the MTA would be doing outreach to schools, churches and businesses in the area, sending out “safety ambassadors” to train people on how to be safe around the rail line.

Concerning jobs, Leahy said the goal is to have a work force that reflects the host community, but that he was “not happy with where we are right now.” He said that the MTA is “prohibited from local hiring” and that the project labor agreement “targets hiring in area of high unemployment.” He said there would be an economic summit in September at Exposition Park where the MTA would discuss jobs and other concerns. In the meantime, the website for jobs is metro.net/pla.

But Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, said the Coalition was preparing to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation calling for an investigation of Leahy’s performance .

And Goodmon took exception to Leahy’s statement concerning environmental clearance and the delay.

“He has been telling that lie for at least a year,” said Goodmon. “It would not delay the project by two years. The board could approve it on June 27 and could issue a stop-work order on the portion that would be affected. The actual environmental review would take six to nine months. It gets longer every time he talks about it.”

“They haven’t even started heavy-duty construction yet,” he said.

According to Goodmon, Leahy denied a contractor who felt he could bid the additional tunneling on budget an opportunity to bid.

As to whether or not the project needs to be grade-separated, Goodmon said Leahy is not from this community, and that transportation agencies have shown reckless disregard for local businesses and the safety of residents in ethnic communities for years. He said they [the MTA] have the money to do the tunneling, but do not have the sensitivity to spend the funds to keep such projects from decimating communities of color.

As to local hiring, Goodmon agreed that they are prohibited from local hiring. “There’s no guarantee that any Crenshaw-area Black construction worker will be working on the project. So what are we getting out of it?” But he said there were provisions to allow local hiring as had been done in the past.