Federal and Local Officials Celebrate New Beginning
Many of the federal and local officials were not even born when the Crenshaw community had its last rail transportation, but all celebrated in the historical ground breaking ceremony to launch the Metro Crenshaw-LAX line that is scheduled for completion in 2019.
“We have reached a milestone in this project that has been a long time coming,” said County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has championed the line since his days as a Los Angeles City councilman in the 1990s. “This has been a 30-year dream in the making, and I look forward to boarding this train in 2019 along with all the other Angelenos who have helped make this a reality.”
The new light rail line will be the first to serve Crenshaw and Inglewood in the last 59 years since the Los Angeles Rail Line (Yellow Cars) served the community up until 1955.
It was a sizeable and historical undertaking that began long before many of the current elected officials thought about office.
Ridley-Thomas did not forget them when he made a special point to acknowledge the efforts that started with late former Mayor Tom Bradley, Congressman Julian Dixon and former Congresswoman Diane E. Watson. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was at the modern day forefront of championing the rail line.
On Tuesday Jan. 21, on a damp cool day, local and federal officials joined with United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for the historical groundbreaking of the $2.1 billion Crenshaw-LAX line on Exposition and Crenshaw Blvd. that will serve as a bright ray of sunshine for years to come.
The 30-year journey for the project will not begin construction for 8.5 miles of light rail that will run from Metro Expo and Green lines, serving the Crenshaw Corridor, Westchester and the area around Los Angeles International Airport.
Funded by the $2.1-billion measure R, voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 2008, officials hailed the light rail as a victory for the local economy while also easing the consistent traffic congestion.
"We're not only bringing transportation to the folks, and it takes a little while to get here, but we're also putting people in jobs - not just jobs but careers," said Diane DuBois, Metro's chairwoman.
"If we can achieve 50 percent local hiring on the building of the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, we can do it on the Crenshaw Line,” emphatically stated Ridley-Thomas. The Supervisor emphasized the importance of people from the community seeing themselves on this project and reminded everyone it all starts at the grass roots level.
“Working together with all facets of government and the local community got us to this moment,” said Ridley-Thomas
"I've never seen a rail line where there were people who didn't have a different point of view. But we're some-$2 billion later, and the vast majority of this line is underground as it should be, because it is safe.”
The project is expected to be completed by 2019.
"Bringing light rail to this community will spur local economic development and make it easier than ever for residents to access downtown Los Angeles and beyond,'' U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx said during the ceremony at the Expo/Crenshaw light rail station.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors last June approved a nearly $1.3 billion contract for construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX rail line. The board also approved a $160 million contingency fund for the project, for a total budget of nearly $2.06 billion, according to Metro.
The U.S. Transportation Department's Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program made also $545.9 million loan toward the project.
"Over the years, I have fought for the inclusion of light rail stations in Leimert Park and at Florence & Hindry on the Crenshaw/LAX line. I visited Metro and met with Metro leadership to discuss the importance of these stations, and I urged Metro to seek federal funding for their construction,” stated Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Waters introduced legislation to increase federal funding for the TIGER program, which provides grants for transportation infrastructure projects like the Crenshaw/LAX Corridor.
She also circulated a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, signed by 113 of her colleagues, requesting $500 million for this program in 2014, and urged the Department of Transportation to provide TIGER grants to Metro to finance such stations.
"The Obama Administration is committed to investing in good transportation projects like the Crenshaw/LAX line to create ladders of opportunity for millions of Americans, and we are proud to help make this project possible with a $545 million loan'' Foxx added.
"This has been a decades-long, monumental effort by an array of elected officials, community advocates and Metro staff,'' Ridley-Thomas said when the board approved the project last year. "We did this together and now we are poised to begin construction on a dream that will help millions.''
The line will also include sites such as Hollywood Park, the Forum, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and Leimert Park.
United States Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Karen Bass were joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at the event.
“The Crenshaw Line will provide a crucial transportation link, create over 18,000 jobs, help connect communities, reduce air pollution, and provide economic development and economic opportunities,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
This new light rail line will be the first to serve Crenshaw and Inglewood in the last 59 years since the Los Angeles Rail Line (Yellow Cars) served the community up until 1955.
The new Metro Rail extension will offer an alternative transportation option to congested roadways and provide significant environmental benefits, economic development and employment opportunities throughout Los Angeles County. Riders will be able to make easy connections within the entire Metro Rail system, municipal bus lines and other regional transportation services.
Officials who attended the event were:
Diane DuBois, Metro's chairwoman
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
U.S. Congress member Karen Bass
U.S. Congress member Maxine Waters
City of Lakewood Councilmember and Metro Board Chair Diane Dubois
City of Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board member Eric Garcetti
LA County Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas
LA County Supervisor and Metro Board member Don Knabe
City of Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board member Pam O’Connor
City of LA Councilmember and Metro Board member Mike Bonin
Metro Board member Jackie Dupont-Walker
City of Inglewood Mayor James Butts
Metro CEO Art Leahy
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx