Letter to the editor, Glendale News-Press, October 16, 1997
(Portions of my original letter omitted from publication are highlighted in underlined italics.)
It would appear that Supervisor Antonovich wishes a debate on the issue of his proposal for a light-rail line. I will endeavor to accommodate him, to the best of my ability.
I must first ask if he was reading the same letter that I wrote, since he begins by accusing me of "blindly [supporting] the $350 million-per-mile subway". How can I be accused of this when I said quite clearly (and the News-Press highlighted) that the cross-San Fernando Valley subway concept was declared dead and buried long ago?
I think it's quite obvious that I am not in support of a subway, and even the now-outdated 1990 referendum shows that the residents of the Valley do not support it either. Small wonder, then, that none of the alignments currently under consideration at the MTA involve light rail.
One can hopefully be forgiven for calling the latest Ventura (134) Freeway rail proposal a "monorail" rather than "light rail", since this project has been resurrected more times than anyone can keep track of and was, at one point, proposed as a monorail. However, calling it light rail does not automatically mean the freeway is the best place for it.
Mr. Antonovich compares this proposal to the Green Line running down the middle of the 105 freeway. What he does not mention is that the Green Line was designed and constructed at the same time as the freeway, which is a very different proposition than adding light rail down the center of an existing (and very busy) freeway. Green Line construction did not inconvenience motorists on the I-105; the same cannot be said for the Ventura Freeway rail
As regards the state law prohibiting at-grade rail on the Burbank-Chandler corridor, this prohibition only affects the alignment east of Hazeltine Avenue, and since the MTA owns the actual right-of-way (and thus can move construction equipment onto the property), there is no reason why -- using an open trench or cut-and-cover construction technique -- a light-rail system cannot be placed underground on that part of the route. Light rail does not necessarily have to be at-grade; the Blue Line was originally designed to run underground between 7th St. Metro Center and Union Station, and does operate below ground level between Pico Station and 7th St. Metro Center.
The suggestion that Burbank-Chandler be used as a "green belt" ignores the fact that the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (forerunner to the MTA) acquired this right-of-way at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Antonovich apparently wants this to become the county's most expensive park.
While Mr. Antonovich rebuts my accusation that the Ventura Freeway alignment is the only alternative to a subway, he fails to answer my question as to why his consortium has not proposed to build light rail on Burbank-Chandler, on an already-owned right of way, rather than focusing on whether or not CalTrans will allow construction on the freeway median.
Mr. Antonovich also has failed to answer my question regarding the inequity of the fare structure of his proposal versus the MTA's fare structure. Is this to be another Metrolink, whose fares have frequently come under attack for being significantly higher than Blue/Red/Green Line service?
Finally, as regards that outdated 1990 referendum, it compared elevated rail on the Ventura Freeway to a subway on the Burbank-Chandler alignment. Most Valley residents, seeing the difficulties downtown L.A. was having with Red Line construction at the time, undoubtedly voted for the freeway alignment because they didn't want to see similar difficulties in the Valley. The voters were not given the option to vote on a light rail system on Burbank-
Chandler; I believe a new referendum is in order comparing light rail to light rail. Mr. Antonovich indicated, at the September 25 MTA board meeting, that he was not opposed to such a referendum.
I urge him to place one on the ballot and let the voters speak before his freeway median proposal be considered further.