by Laura J. Nelson - Los Angeles Times | June 27, 2014

Train Station to Connect Metro Rail Lines With LAX Approved

Los Angeles County transportation officials approved a new train connection with Los Angeles International Airport, capping decades of discussion and complaints over one of Southern California's most infamous planning problems.

June 27--Los Angeles County transportation officials on Thursday approved a new train station designed to allow a rail connection with Los Angeles International Airport, capping decades of discussion and complaints over one of Southern California's most infamous planning problems.

In a unanimous vote, the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors agreed to proceed with planning a $200-million light-rail station a mile and a half east of LAX's central terminal area. The station would connect the north-south Crenshaw Line, now being built, and some trains from the east-west Green Line to a proposed monorail-like system that would link travelers to a consolidated car-rental facility, a planned ground transportation hub and the heart of LAX.

The added station, at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, would be less than a half-mile north of another planned Crenshaw Line stop at Century and Aviation boulevards.

"This is a historic day for our city, because we're finally on the way to bringing rail to LAX," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, vice chair of the Metro board. "We'll be able to fix a historic mistake of our past."

Travelers, urban planners and politicians have long bemoaned L.A.'s lack of a direct rail connection to the nation's third-busiest airport -- a service available in many large cities. Passengers and airport employees who take rail to the airport must exit at the Metro Green Line's Aviation/LAX station south of the airport and transfer to shuttle buses.

Officials say the new station will speed up airport access and could include check-in counters, flight information boards and currency exchange locations. The board also asked for a review of baggage check facilities at similar airport transportation hubs in other cities to determine whether that service could be added.

In an early Metro concept sketch, the station is depicted as a glass, multi-story building with covered rail platforms and a passenger drop-off area.

The 96th Street station still must go through a final design process, environmental review and cost analysis. Additions such as ticketing areas and concessions would increase the $200-million cost. About $330 million in funding for the project is included in Measure R, a half-cent transportation sales tax that county voters approved five years ago.

Bryan Pennington, Metro's executive director of engineering and construction, said Thursday's decision shouldn't delay the scheduled 2019 opening of the Crenshaw Line, even though the added station may take longer to complete.

Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX, expects to finalize and approve designs for the people-mover system in December. The route through the terminal area is still being finalized, officials said. Service into the airport could begin as early as 2022. The airport department is expected to pay the $1.5-billion cost of that portion of the project.

The new LAX rail hub will help the city create a world-class gateway, Garcetti said, adding, "The first step out of airport shouldn't be second class."

laura.nelson@latimes.com

Twitter: @laura_nelson

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