To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Metro chief Art Leahy expounds on Leimert Park prospects in wake of subway celebration


By Olu Alemoru, June 5, 2013


  Art Leahy

 MTA chief executive Art Leahy believes the guaranteed Leimert Park Village Station will be a economic boost to the area.

Less than two weeks after dignitaries and the community took to the stage to celebrate the news that there will be guaranteed funding for a Leimert Park Village station on the proposed Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s top official has expounded on the vision for the historic neighborhood and business corridor.

Art Leahy, who was appointed the MTA’s chief executive in 2009, hailed the surprising development — given that two years ago the MTA board voted 10-2 not to find additional funds for a station — as a move that will open up the area.

“The [8.5 –mile] Crenshaw Line will hook up with the Green Line in the south and with the Expo Line in the north,” he said. Construction is under way to take the Expo Line to Santa Monica. [In the near future] you’ll be able to go from the beach and transfer easily to Pasadena or the East L.A. Line or take the subway to Hollywood. So what this really does is open up the world to people who live along the Crenshaw line, but also make it easier for people around the county to come to this neighborhood; to come to Leimert Park for retail activities and restaurants.”

In addressing the MTA’s seeming change of heart, Leahy, 64, a 38-year transit veteran who once worked as a bus driver, noted that things were a little more “nuanced” than what they seemed.
“As you said, two years ago the board voted not to find additional funds,” he said. “But they also voted — I think unanimously — to include both Leimert Park and Hindry [a proposed station near Florence and Hindry avenues in Westchester] as design options in the event that the money could be found or in case the bids came in low enough to allow us to pay for the two stations within the available funds.

“What changed with this vote is [the board] said, ‘we’re going to do the two stations, we’ll find the money and just get it done.’ Now what that really speaks to over the past two years is the support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. They reflected on the community’s input, accepted the arguments have merit and said to their staff, ‘let’s get it done.’”
However, as forthcoming as he was about the run up to the decision, Leahy stayed mum on what is shaping up to be the next big fight, the campaign to ensure that a major stretch of the line goes underground. The Wave asked him about reports that two of the proposals had bid to build a station and tunnel within the existing budget.

“That is a little awkward, because under our procurement rules we’re in what’s called a blackout period,” he said. “That’s to ensure there’s no funny business in the evaluation process so I’m prohibited from talking about any of the proposals. But I will say that if someone came in and offered what you just said, that would be a wonderful offer.”

Leahy also wouldn’t divulge how many proposals were on the table, relating that there were multiple bids vying for the award in June or “maybe July.” With high Black unemployment a constant refrain in local and national politics, all eyes will be on the potential delivery of construction jobs, and according to Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, 80 to 90 percent of the skilled construction workers in that area are African-American.

“This project will be targeted, not local hire,” Leahy said. “There’s some federal money involved and federal law prohibits a local hiring preference. But what we did is we went to Washington last year and negotiated a pact with them. That’s important because we’re the first transportation agency in the nation to do this.
“It allows us to implement targeted hiring focused on areas of high unemployment and disadvantaged workers. What we’ll do is break that down by ZIP code and then go out and do recruitment. Moreover, after we make the award we’ll sit down with the contractor and talk about hiring. In fact, in September we’re thinking about having an economic summit — perhaps over at Exposition Park — where we will invite the community to meet the contractor.”
Thus, according to Leahy, with groundbreaking scheduled in the next couple of months, construction to start next spring and the Crenshaw Line scheduled to open in 2019, the grass is looking greener for the local community.
“With a rail line it will be much faster to go to a Dodger game or the museums in Exposition Park,” he said. “Next year our total rail ridership will begin to exceed the ridership on the BART system in San Francisco, which opened up in 1970. We think that’s pretty impressive and it’s because passengers are coming out to ride the trains for work, school and play.”