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MTA approves $1.7-billion rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard [Updated]

December 10, 2009 |  2:55 pm

L.A. County transit officials today approved a new light-rail system through South L.A. and the South Bay.

The 8 1/2-mile light-rail line would run from Exposition Boulevard to Imperial Highway, following Crenshaw Boulevard and passing through Leimert Park before veering west through Inglewood and south to Aviation Boulevard near LAX.

“It’s a huge victory for the Crenshaw community and the South Bay community,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I expect it will have a highly positive impact on the quality of life in that corridor.”

The line, which would run along Crenshaw Boulevard, is the biggest beneficiary to date from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax for transportation that L.A. County voters approved last year.

MTA officials said Measure R revenues will cover the approximate $1.7-billion cost of the line. But that amount will only pay for a mostly above-ground system, which has been criticized by some residents and officials.

They want more of the line underground, saying that would reduce accidents and make the proposed Crenshaw Line faster. The MTA has grappled with this issue before.

The Gold Line extension through the Eastside, for example, has been criticized by its biggest backer, Supervisor Gloria Molina, because it's mostly above ground, where she says it puts drivers and pedestrians at risk.

The Gold Line route to Pasadena is also mostly above ground, and it's struggled to get riders in part because all the crossings make it a slow ride.

Ridley-Thomas said he wants more of the line underground, particularly a stretch near businesses, schools and churches.

[Updated at 3:13 p.m.: Officials said they hope to break ground on the project in 2012 or 2013 and hope to open the line in 2018.]

—Ari B. Bloomekatz

Image credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority