Friday, February 22, 2013

Around Town: The future could be L.A.'s legacy of light rail

Around Town: The future could be L.A.'s legacy of light rail

If you’ve driven around Los Angeles lately, you’ve probably noticed the poor condition of the streets and highways. La Cañada Flintridge has better roads than L.A., but the local freeways — the 210 and the 2 — are just as battered and worn.

Ever since the 210 connected with the I-15, LCF has suffered through increased commercial truck traffic. The “truck lanes” are damaged and bumpy and we’ve seen some whopper collisions involving big rigs.

Headed to Pasadena? Some folks choose the “back way” through Woodbury, or along Linda Vista, especially during rush hour. Noise pollution? Freeway noise hits most of LCF.

Those are just a couple of reasons why many locals are opposed to an underground tunnel connecting the 4.5-mile gap between the 710 and the 210.

In a letter to the MTA last September, Rep. Adam Schiff expressed his concerns. “While the project was originally estimated to cost approximately $1.5 billion, a 2011 study estimated it would cost $2.8 billion and now the Measure R extension expenditure plan believes it will cost $5.6 billion. How costly will it be in another year? Or two? Or 10?”

By some accounts, the tunnel connection would not be completed for at least a decade. Existing traffic congestion would not resolve with the tunnel proposal. Schiff proposed that we take the long view.

“I urge Metro to give full and serious consideration as to how funds for a tunnel project could be better spent. I suspect that for less than the actual cost of a tunnel, Metro would have the funds necessary to undertake all of the remaining options under consideration — combined. These options, transportation system management, bus rapid transit and light-rail would help move people in an environmentally friendly manner without disrupting our long-established neighborhoods.”

In December, MTA issued a report, “State Route 710 Study, Alternatives Analysis Report.” It lists five alternatives to close the 4.5-mile gap between the 710 and the 210: “no build,” traffic-management technology, bus, an underground freeway tunnel and several light rail alternatives.

The “no-build” would mean no additional building or infrastructure between Valley Boulevard and the 210. The traffic management technology would include incentives for ride sharing, such as HOV lanes. The bus option would include rapid bus lines between Montebello and Pasadena. The tunnel option would be the multibillion-dollar 10-year construction project to create an underground tunnel under South Pasadena and Pasadena.

The main argument in favor of closing the gap with the tunnel is that it will relieve traffic congestion. The arguments presented in opposition include earthquake risks, air pollution, disruption of local communities, increased truck traffic and initial cost estimates in the billions.

The most exciting alternative proposed in the MTA report are a group of light rail options — several light rail routes that would connect the Gold Line directly with either Cal State Los Angeles or East Los Angeles College.

We should adopt those light rail routes, and more.

Consider this: The planned Foothill Extension to the Gold Line will connect Claremont to East Pasadena.

Imagine this: It is January 2023. Your kids (or grandkids) grab a light rail at the entrance to the 2 Freeway on Foothill Boulevard, or take the escalator down to the light rail stop on the 210 at Memorial Park. From there, they go to the Claremont Colleges, Caltech, Cal State Los Angeles, UCLA, USC or the local airports, Burbank and LAX.

The light rail route would use the center dividers of existing freeways.

Want to grab a bite at L.A. Live? You could take the light rail.

Want to go to the beach? No more LCF beach bus, your kids grab the light rail from La Cañada to the beaches of their choice.

Flying to London? Take the Gold line to the airport.

Cocktails? Connect with the light rail to Musso & Frank Grill.

Our City Council issued a resolution opposing the tunnel plan. It’s a good position for our council to take, but we need more. We don’t maintain the freeways that we already have. Why spend billions on a system that does not include light rail connections between airports, high schools, colleges, and entertainment centers? Bring back L.A.'s once-glorious mass transit system.

Let's begin right here in La Cañada Flintridge with an all-freeway, center divider, light-rail proposal.

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