Wave Staff and Wire Reports
CRENSHAW — Officials gathered March 30 to announce the “substantial completion” of the bulk of the long-awaited Crenshaw/LAX light rail line connecting the Expo (E) Line in the West Adams area with the Green (C) Line near Los Angeles International Airport, with a portion of the route expected to open to passengers by late summer.
According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, work is substantially complete on two sections of the line, essentially stretching from the Aviation/LAX Green Line station near the airport to Leimert Park. The transit agency will now begin a five- to six-month testing period on the line, with opening planned for late summer. An exact opening date has not been announced.
“The Crenshaw/LAX Line is integral to L.A.’s transportation future, and today’s milestone is proof of our extraordinary progress,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “We’ve promised Angelenos a state-of-the-art transit system in South L.A. for years, and today, we want to thank our residents and businesses for their perseverance and support — and proudly share that in just a few months, we’ll open up a new train that will ease congestion, improve public health and connect their communities with the rest of our rapidly expanding transit network.”
Clint Rosemond, president of the Leimert Park Village, a stakeholder’s group, is cautiously optimistic about the opening of the long awaited rail line.
“It will obviously mean greater access to the community,” he said. “It’s good to see that progress is being made. It’s been so long now. It’s been complicated by COVID. Hopefully things will speed up with linkages being made to the airport and Leimert Park.
“It’s really about what happens after the opening of the Crenshaw Line,” he added. “I really think other things will have much more of an impact in terms of to what extent the Crenshaw Line plays a part in the ultimate success or not of the Leimert Park Village.
“It’s a transportation means and that’s very important, but it’s not everything. If the greatest transportation facilities are available, but we still have the restrictions of a major public health issue like COVID, it’s not going to mean much.
“But would I rather see it happen than not?” Rosemond asked. “Yes, of course, without question. It’s going to make a difference to some people, but to the larger majority, I don’t know. It’s yet to be seen.”
The 8.5-mile transit line was originally planned for completion by 2020, but construction issues forced delays in the project, which was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The MTA initially delayed the roughly $2 billion project’s opening until early 2021, then pushed it back until 2022.
When the MTA completes its testing process on the substantially complete portions of the line, it will open initially only between the new Westchester/Veterans station near Manchester and Florence avenues and a new station near Leimert Park.
Trains will not begin running on the southern stretch between the Westchester/Veterans station and the Aviation/LAX station until late 2023, when work is completed on the Airport Metro Connector station platform for a future people-mover that will carry passengers to LAX terminals. Until that happens, buses will shuttle passengers along the southern portion of the rail line’s route.
Late 2023 is also the projected timeline for opening the final northern portion of the line, between Leimert Park and the Expo/Crenshaw station, connecting to the Expo (E) Line.
The Crenshaw/LAX line is seen as a critical element in providing alternative transportation to the airport. It is also expected to help relieve traffic on game days at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The rail line does not stop at the stadium, but Inglewood is pushing for construction of a roughly 1.8-mile people-mover system that will link the stadium with the nearest rail station.
MTA officials noted March 30 that the agency has worked to mitigate the impacts of the drawn-out construction project on local businesses, doling out more than $20.1 million to more than 230 “mom and pop” businesses since the work began in 2014.
“These construction mitigation programs have been critical for many of local small business owners, giving them much-needed relief and financial support as a result of years of construction in their neighborhoods,” MTA Board Chair and County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “We know these small businesses will emerge stronger with a helping hand from [the MTA] and continue to thrive as this new rail line brings more customers to their doorsteps in the years ahead.”
As construction nears the end, so does the Eat Shop Play Crenshaw pilot advertising and community engagement program. The MTA designed the program to promote and support small businesses impacted by the construction. More than 150 businesses located along the project corridor partnered with the MTA to receive free business marketing assistance through the Business Solution Center and the Business Investment Fund.
MTA board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker said the business programs showed the MTA’s commitment to partner with local businesses on the Crenshaw Corridor, helping them to stay afloat.
“These two construction mitigation programs are important to support the economic viability for this equity-focused community,” Dupont-Walker said. “As a resident and stakeholder, I am proud to see us provide this level of engagement in our region.”
Cynthia Gibson contributed to this story.