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Coalition continues fight to take Crenshaw Rail Line underground

Former Councilman Farrell compares battle to civil rights era

Stanley O. Williford | 6/20/2013, midnight

“I have not seen anything like this since the 1960s,” former 8th District Councilman Robert Farrell told a gathering of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. A Freedom Rider during that period, Farrell was one of a contingent of Black and White civil rights activists who took on the dangerous challenge of riding buses through the segregated South to focus attention on the government’s lack of enforcement of laws desegregating interstate bus travel.

Farrell told the group it was dealing with a significant issue and is able to influence public policy. “Do you know how exciting it is to stand with men and women like you all?” he asked.

“No single issue is more important than the Crenshaw corridor,” he said, telling the group that the Leimert Park Station was “a big win.” He said this is where we really get involved with significant issues. “There is no reason we can’t organize on both sides of Crenshaw.”

Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Coalition, thanked those in attendance, telling them the Leimert Station victory was a tremendous challenge that could not have been accomplished without them.

Goodmon said he believes in transit being for communities, not through them, mentioning that a number of corridors around the nation had decimated communities. He numbered three things the Coalition wants to accomplish:

• Ensure that the line is built the way the community desires

• Ensure the line is built by Black people

• Ensure that the economic development is community-driven and based on principles of local economic empowerment and facilitates local economic development

He also noted that there are three phases of building the line.

• Connecting with Los Angeles International Airport

• Connecting on the north with Wilshire Boulevard and eventually Hollywood

• Connecting on south with either Long Beach or San Pedro, and eventually the port

What Goodmon and the coalition want between 48th and 59th streets is a bored tunnel. What the County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) wants is a ground-level rail line that is much simpler and less costly to build. But Coalition supporters say that such a line would kill business in the area, would endanger pedestrians and transform a tree-lined section of street into a prison-like area and eliminate 308 parking spaces. It would also close off streets and eliminate left turns, they say.

Throughout the meeting one kept hearing the theme, “It ain’t over till it’s under,” a reference to a remaining portion of the Crenshaw Rail Line that the group wants to see go underground rather than at ground level.

In an earlier interview, Arthur T. Leahy, CEO of the MTA, said undergrounding that portion of Crenshaw did not look promising. “We don’t think there’s a need to be grade-separated right there. In other places, we did think so.”

Goodmon is encouraging concerned citizens to attend the June 27 MTA board meeting where the $1.3 billion construction contract for the rail line is scheduled to be awarded.