LA Wave: Inglewood Officials Bicker About Crenshaw Rail Line

Changing the Centinela/Florence crossing in the City of Inglewood from street-level to underground fell just one vote short of passage at the Inglewood City Council meeting. Councilmembers Stevens and Dunlap voted “Yes,” while Mayor Butts, and Councilmembers Franklin and Morales voted “No.”

The LA Wave covered the story, which is below.

Inglewood Officials Bicker About Crenshaw Rail Line

By OLU ALEMORU, Staff Writer
Aug 4, 2011

INGLEWOOD — In a somewhat acrimonious debate, the City Council Tuesday night shot down by a 3-2 vote an initiative proposed by Councilman Mike Stevens to explore funding for an underground crossing at the Florence and Centinela intersection of the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line.

Meanwhile, Mayor James Butts and Councilmen Eloy Morales and Ralph Franklin, backed a Butts-amended initiative to seek federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants to resurface Century Boulevard.

The three councilmen all objected to the wording in Stevens’ initiative that “funds on a contingent basis Design Option 3 (Florence/Centinela intersection) with $13.25 million from the city of Inglewood Redevelopment Agency providing this if the project is not funded by MTA by the completion of the project design process.”

According to Stevens, the agency would eventually seek reimbursement for those funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In a background brief to Stevens’ proposal, it was noted that MTA staff has indicated that funding limitations are one of the reasons they are recommending an at-grade crossing level at the Florence/Centinela intersection.

Stevens argues that the at-grade crossing poses unique safety hazards, not fully evaluated by MTA officials in the final environmental report.

The shape and features of the intersection, the proximity of two schools, a large public park, a large church, a blind corner, awkward roadway configuration, close proximity to residential properties and the lack of north-south arterials in North Inglewood due to Prairie Avenue dead-ending at Ed Vincent Park and Centinela dead-ending at St. John’s Church, all necessitate a grade separation, the document states.

Furthermore, it maintains that the high frequency of funeral processions in the immediate vicinity due to the close proximity of St. John’s Catholic Church and Inglewood Park Cemetery to the crossing would push funeral procession routes to already overburdened streets like La Brea Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, creating more traffic congestion from a project intended to address transportation challenges.

“This initiative primarily sweetens the pot,” Stevens said. “I’m asking for the city manager to look into alternative funding for this project so we can move it below grade.”

Replying to a question from Morales, City Administrator Artie Fields said there was currently $11 million in un-obligated redevelopment funds available.

“My biggest concern is the content of a council initiative that seeks to draw down $13.52 million in redevelopment funds,” Franklin said.

“There are many redevelopment projects and residents have told us time and time again they want something done about Century Boulevard.”

Councilwoman Judy Dunlap strongly disagreed.

“I don’t know how three members can be so confused with a simple motion,” she said.

“The TIGER grant is a good option, but that’s in my colleague’s original motion. We’re assuming our city manager, who is an expert in the field, will look at all possible funding sources.”

However, Morales backed Franklin and Butts.

“There’s a significant difference in the two motions,” he said.

“The original initiative is to use all resources to fund the project. Those funds have to exist first, but [in the meantime] we have to prioritize the wishes of the residents.”

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