When construction wraps up on Los Angeles’ Crenshaw/LAX Line in 2019, the highly anticipated light rail route will connect a key corridor of the city from Jefferson Park to El Segundo and add a long-sought rail connection from downtown to one of the busiest airports in the world.
Getting the project off the ground, however, was no small feat. Without the approval of “Measure R,” a half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2009 that provided a dedicated funding for twelve metro area transit projects, the city simply wouldn’t have had the money to proceed.
Early project planning and work on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to construct the 8.5–mile line connecting two existing subway lines began in 2009.
During this review process, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Los Angeles Metro officials jointly identified a rarely-used five-mile long freight rail line instead of building new tracks that would have disrupted several neighborhoods and proven far costlier.
That decision decreased project costs, saved time, and reduced disturbances for the nearby community by using an existing right-of-way while providing significant environmental benefits, economic development, and employment opportunities throughout Los Angeles County.
One of the visionary elements of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) EPA is its creation of broad opportunities for public participation in government decisions that affect their environment and local communities. Throughout the environmental review and planning process, local residents were continuously engaged in dialogue to ensure the project would be completed in an equitable, beneficial, and resourceful way that met the needs of local communities.
The Crenshaw/LAX Community Leadership Council (CLC) was established thereafter to provide feedback and carries out its work through topic-specific working groups, quarterly community meetings, bi-monthly construction meetings and special project collaborations with Metro staff and other community groups. Residents of Leimert Park Village, for example won the battle for their own station and for the train to run underground and out of site for its first three stops.
One of the Federal Transit Administration’s first projects piloting a new process that helped identify and mitigate project risks more efficiently, the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was finalized less than two years later in 2011 and the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail alternative moved forward.
The Crenshaw/LAX transit corridor provides two key lessons. First, when projects are assigned dedicated sources of funding (e.g., Los Angeles’ Measure M) the NEPA review process is normally swift and rarely a major barrier to project completion. Project delays are more often than not the result of a combination of inadequate funding and local opposition. The NEPA review process and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) were completed in less than two years.
Second, without the NEPA review process, tens of thousands of residents from Inglewood to El Segundo would have been able to weigh in and provide feedback on the Crenshaw/LAX corridor project that stood to affect their livelihood and quality of life. Similarly, without the NEPA review process, federal decision-makers might not have been able to identify that a rarely-used freight railroad could be utilized at a lower cost and with less disruption to local communities.
Scheduled for completion in 2019, the Crenshaw/LAX line will run from the Jefferson Park neighborhood in the north to El Segundo in the south with an estimated daily ridership of 16,000.
 “Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Environmental Impact Report: Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.” Federal Transit Association (FTA). August 31, 2011. Available at:
 “Record of Decision: Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.” Federal Transit Association (FTA). Deceber 30, 2011. Available at:
 “About the Crenshaw/LAX Community Leadership Council (CLC).” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Available at:
 The Crenshaw Line will open in 2019—how are residents feeling about it?” LA Curbed. September 22, 2017. Available at:
 “Community Organizations Shed Light On New Crenshaw District.” Los Angeles Sentinel. December 2, 2015. Available at: