By Laura J. Nelson, June 16, 2014
A station map shows the route of the Metro Green Line, which stops 2.5 miles short of Los Angeles International Airport.
In a slight advancement of the decades-long debate over how to bring rail
to Los Angeles International Airport, transportation officials Monday
voiced their support for a project they said could solve one of Southern
California’s most vexing and infamous planning dilemmas.
In a report made public Monday, Los Angeles County Metropolitan
Transportation Authority staff members called for a $1.7-billion project
that would include a train and a new light-rail station 1.5 miles to
the east of LAX’s passenger terminals.
The $200-million station at
96th Street and Aviation Boulevard would connect to the Green Line, the
Crenshaw Line and a so-called "people-mover," which would likely
resemble San Francisco International Airport's circulator train.
Although airport officials have not finalized a route, the circulator
train could connect Metro rail to a consolidated rental car facility, a
planned ground transportation hub and LAX's passenger terminals.
The recommendation comes after decades of discussion over how to
connect rail to LAX. Los Angeles will soon have two light-rail lines
that stop less than three miles from the terminals of the country's
third-busiest airport. Even if Metro votes on the 96th Street project
immediately and moves to build it fast, it probably would not be done
before the Crenshaw line, which is supposed to open in 2019.
Board of Directors will weigh the proposal at their June 26 board
meeting. Board members could approve the recommendation, or vote to
study other options.
The Board of Airport Commissioners, which governs LAX, must also
green-light the recommendation. If they don't, Metro staff will try to
connect an existing light-rail station at Aviation and Century
boulevards to the people-mover, the report said.
A spokeswoman for LAX said airport officials had not seen the Metro report.
an emailed statement, Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Nancy
Castles said the agency will work with Metro “regardless of whatever
option” is selected.
96th Street station would be built about a half-mile north of an
existing Green Line station at Aviation and Century boulevards, but each
station would serve "an independent purpose," staff said.
R, the half-cent sales tax county voters approved in 2008, secured $330
million for the airport connector. But it is yet to be determined who
will pay for the remainder of the project, which Metro staff said will
cost more than $1.5 billion regardless of which option is chosen.
The option Metro has backed is significantly cheaper than others,
including building light-rail directly into the terminal area. Metro
directors ruled out a direct rail link earlier this year, citing the high cost and difficulty of tunneling under the terminal area.
project renderings, Los Angeles World Airports staff have indicated
they would prefer that Metro rail connect directly to a planned ground
transportation hub at Airport Boulevard and 96th Street. That would cost
about $3.1 billion: $1.7 billion for the rail link, and $1.4 billion
for the circulator train.
Connecting rail directly to a ground
transportation hub or to the terminal area would "marginally improve
transit ridership," but would come at a "very high cost," staff wrote in
Despite growing pressure from the public and elected
officials to close the LAX rail gap, just 1-2% of airport trips are
projected to be made on Metro rail and buses by 2035, according to the
Metro analysis. About 57% of trips will be made in cars, 33% in taxis,
limos and shuttles and 8% by FlyAway bus.