Metro receives grant for bike path in South L.A.

This map shows the segment of the Rail-to-River project that will be built using the new federal grant and other monies. Click to see larger.

This map shows the segment of the Rail-to-River project that will be built using the new federal grant and other monies. Click to see larger.


The view of the right-of-way looking east on Slauson Avenue toward the 110 freeway underpass. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.


The view on Slauson looking west toward the 110.

Metro has received a $15-million federal TIGER grant to help construct 6.4 miles of the Rail-to-River pedestrian and bike path that would run between the future Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Silver Line and the Blue Line, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Metro announced Thursday.

The above map shows the path’s route, which would convert part of an under-used rail corridor that Metro owns — it’s known as the Harbor Subdivision. This segment is used very infrequently by the BNSF freight railroad.

A few notes about the project:

•The demographics of the area indicate there is a need for better first-mile, last-mile connections. The Rail to Rail corridor is home to about 108,000 residents and has a population density more than six times the county average. Over two-thirds of the area residents are minority. More than one-fifth of the households within ½ mile of the project corridor do not own a vehicle and 16.8 percent of the area workers commute to work via public transit, bicycle and/or walking.

•The path will follow a busy east-west traffic corridor mostly along Slauson Avenue, a four-lane street. There is currently no bike lane on Slauson, nor is there a sidewalk on Slauson’s north side. Here are collision statistics from the corridor from a 2014 feasibility study by Metro:


•There are still hurdles to clear to build the project, which has an estimated cost of $34.3 million. In addition to the $15 million from the federal grant, another $19.3 million will come from local and state funds. Metro will have to environmentally clear the alignment and negotiate with BNSF — which still has rights to use the corridor — to formally abandon the rail right-of-way.

•The right-of-way is typically 15 feet to 17 feet wide. Part of the project will involve adding signage, benches, lighting and some landscaping — although the extent of that will be determined later as the project is actually designed. There is more about the landscaping issue in the project’s feasibility report.

•Below is a video that shows the Harbor Subdivision going from east to west. The segment of the Rail-to-River project with funding begins at the 44-second mark in the video and then continues until the video ends at Crenshaw and 67th Street. The Rail-to-River path at that point will continue using 67th Street and West Boulevard to reach the Fairview Heights Station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line at the intersection of Florence Avenue and West.

Here is the news release from Metro:



The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) announced today that it was awarded a $15 million United States Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Act (TIGER) VII grant for construction of the Rail to Rail Active Transportation Corridor Connector Project.

The Rail to Rail project will transform a 6.4 mile stretch of minimally active Metro-owned rail right of way called the Harbor Subdivision into a bicycle and pedestrian path. The project parallels Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles connecting the future Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Fairview Heights Station with the Metro Silver Line at the I-110 freeway and the Metro Blue Line Station, ending at Santa Fe Avenue.

“I want to thank the Obama Administration for sharing Metro’s vision that this blighted right-of-way can and must be transformed into a corridor where walking and biking can be done safely,” Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “With this investment, Angelenos will be able to efficiently access the Blue Line and the future Crenshaw/LAX Line,” he added. “The proposed improvements will make a meaningful difference in the quality of life of the hundreds of thousands of people who live, work and visit the surrounding areas.”

“Metro’s application achieved the goals of connecting neighborhoods and helping communities coordinate innovative, multi-modal transportation projects that serve the diverse travel needs of residents and businesses,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez.

Metro will contribute up to $19.3 million in local and state money to fund the $34.3 million transportation development.

Metro has owned the right of way for the Harbor Subdivision since the early 1990s. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad has operating easements, but rarely runs trains along those tracks. Metro will initiate an abandonment process to transfer the BNSF easements.

“Metro has already successfully repurposed little-used or abandoned rights-of-ways into bicycle and pedestrian routes, notably the Metro Orange Line, the Bellflower Bike Trail and the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank, and Rail to Rail will bring similar benefits to South L.A. residents.” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington.

The Rail to Rail corridor is home to about 108,000 residents and has a population density more than six times the county average. Over two-thirds of the area residents are minority; more than one-fifth of the households within ½ mile of the project corridor do not own a vehicle and 16.8 percent of the area workers commute to work via public transit, bicycle and/or walking.

The DOT TIGER grant program is highly competitive with projects in all 50 states and U.S. territories applications competing for $500 million in total grants. 

29 replies

  1. The plus side is that the area will be cleaned up. Currently I feel like i’m in Detroit when I’m in those parts. Also, I hope this also improves the 108 West transfer top the Blue Line. Currently, you have to get off at Santa Fe, walk south, and then about 1/8th of a mile west to the stop.

    Overall, I had expected the Harbor Subdivision Railway from LAX to Union. I think put that on some memorandum to muster up voters and public attention for 2016. This could be a story like the orange line in my opinion. A great idea in theory, but less utilitarian than may be anticipated. I WOULD go Red, Blue, to Slauson, and maybe bike west to the Slauson SwapMeet one day though. : )

  2. I feel that this should NOT be exclusively a bike/pedesterian path. This should have some form of rail too. Otherwise this project is a waste of taxpayer money. This route has been STUDIED for many years, it’s time for the STUDYING to stop and ACTION to start. STOP WASTING MONEY ON STUDY after STUDY after STUDY and show those of us who pay taxes some REAL ACTION!

    • This seems to be a commitment to building it, not studying it further. More rail in this corridor would be a bit redundant, given how many lines already serve the area, especially once the Crenshaw Line is complete.

      • Hi Jonah;

        Correct. Getting this money allows the project to go from a concept to something that will be built although the project still must be environmentally cleared and designed.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

      • Not redundant, more like reinforcing. Slauson runs roughly through the middle of a 40 sq.mi. area bounded by the Crenshaw, expo, blue and green lines, which is to say that you would be cutting through the heart of a dense transit-dependent region where for the most part you would be miles from the nearest rail station. It would be a smart investment in regional connectivity. Honestly we could also put rail on Vermont and Florence without it being remotely redundant, but it’s all a pipe dream at this point.

    • I agree John. Sun Valley, Pacoima, Sylmar, and the city of San Fernando have a similar situation where Metrolink (which Union Pacific uses it at times too) co-exist along a dedicated bicyclist and pedestrian ROW.

      • How dare anyone from outside South Central tell them they need to keep this eyesore looking like Calcutta? Calling it Detroit is not accurate.

        The industries using rail long ago abandoned the area. The largest, a steel yard at Central/Slauson, is a supermarket and neighborhood shopping center. There is not one likely rail customer along Slauson.

        San Fernando road is an perfect example of what should not be tolerated in South LA, and what never would be tolerated in any neighborhood where poor people aren’t the population. First. there are very few industrial spurs. Most of the trains are long-distance container turns. Or Metrolink.

        “Keep freight rail alive in South Central ” ???? IT DIED, YEARS AGO.

  3. Will this project end any possibility of being used for future train service? I don’t get why this ROW couldn’t be used for a direct rail connection between LAX Crenshaw Station and Downtown LA for a one seat ride. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

    • In the short term, yes; in the long-term, no. It’s still land owned by Metro, and won’t be sold to private ownership, so you’re not going to see minimalls or condos being built on the right of way. Part of the challenge of building rail lines is purchasing private property, which is why it’s hard to resurrect some of the old Pacific Electric lines. But lines like the Blue and Expo lines were always owned by Metro (and its predecessors) after the railroads sold it off.

  4. This story leaves many questions. Will this mean cleaning up the abandoned rail line, landscaping the 5-mile scar of ugly fences, removing the 100-year-old telegraph line poles? Will it mean widening Slauson, to provide safer turn lanes, bus pullouts, etc? East-west light rail here makes little sense, with Expo to the north and green to the south. Putting in light rail just because ATSF ran trains there in the 1880s makes zero sense.

    • The feasibility study discusses adding lighting, signage, benches and some landscaping as part of the project. The right of way is mostly 15 to 17 feet wide and I don’t know to what extent that allows for removing objects that may be on adjacent private property. Good questions and we’ll get more answers when the project is environmentally cleared and designed.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Union Pacific still operates through Watts and into Gardena but unfortunately the other old rail spurs have long been abandoned in the rest of South Central. I saw the ATSF often along Slauson and enjoyed the diamond at Alameda with Southern Pacific. While there may no longer be a rail customer along Slauson that doesn’t mean that there should never be a return of rail customers either. There is such a thing as industrial preservation and while it may seem like wishful thinking hopefully manufacturing can return. And if it’s not going to get used as a Light Rail Transit ROW BNSF should not give it up still because you never know. I don’t see what the problem is in building a bicycle path in co-existence with this old ROW. It will clean up the place a bit at least. This area like that along San Fernando Road has a history of hosting industrial land use. Homes just got built over the decades in proximity to the ROWs. This is old LA and not West Hills or Brentwood so its obvious wealthy people didn’t flock there to raise children or call it home. The area has been in dire need of jobs/careers since the industrial exodus.

  5. Seriously, a 6.4 miles light rail line? It will never happen. Considering the demographics of the area I’m going to assume that there are a lot of bicyclist who commutes to work. The bike path is great for the first-mile, last-mile connections to the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Silver Line and the Blue Line. The cost of the bike path vs the cost of a 6.5 mile light raid can’t be beat.

  6. I would take a third approach. Built it as a bike path, but keep the prospect of also using it to add a rail line in the future if it warrants one.

    We don’t want to keep making the same mistake like the Orange Line where we kick ourselves in the butt 2 decades later on why the project wasn’t built with future additional upgrades to a light rail line in mind.

    It’s not a matter of “this” versus “that.” It can also be “this” plus a potential for “that” also in the future.

    • NO! We did that with the Metro stations and look what happened. No one cares about the artwork, I see no one staring at them or admiring them, the stations look dirty and empty devoid of anything interesting. We don’t want to make the same mistakes again.

      One the bike path is built, it needs to be maintained and kept clean. Money from that has to come from somewhere, so build the bike path right. Add retail space or some dedicated food truck areas for rent so that at least that contributes something to the maintenance and upkeep of bike paths.

      Art can come later. A retail space on the other hand, brings in rent income and sales tax revenues. That money can be used to help maintain the bike paths.

  7. Wouldn’t that make an ideal streetcar line? Since the corridor is so under served by transit, a streetcar using the existing rails would provide this needed service with fast convenient and easy service to the Blue, Silver or Crenshaw lines. This should cost less than the conversion to a bike-walk way since the line is already in place. Only passing sidings, overhead trolley wire and stations will have to be added. The cars can be stored and serviced at the Crenshaw maintenance campus.

    • Yeah the regional option would be a waste of resources. The AA, in my opinion, sells short the prospect of a connector line between the crenshaw and west Santa ana branch lines. It even notes the high priority of serving the transit dependent population in the area.

    • Sep 15, 2015
      Metro Exploring New Options for West Santa Ana Branch …New Green Line Station

      To facilitate transfers between the WSAB and the Metro Green Line, which is located in the median of the I-105 freeway, a new transfer station would be constructed midway between existing stations at Lakewood and Long Beach Boulevards.

  8. BNSF should not give up this section of the Harbor Subdivision. At least not completely. The pedestrian and bicycle ROW can co-exist with freight/passenger commuter rail (and/or plus Light Rail Transit in the future (if applicable)); see Sylmar, Pacoima, and Sun Valley along San Fernando Road.

    While the area that this line goes through may look like Detroit, according to another comment, that’s precisely why BNSF should not abandon this area. Los Angeles has lost large swaths of manufacturing sites since the 1970s and I see so much eagerness today to turn it to housing or commercial repurposing. If housing or commercial replaces the old/abandoned industrial sites…where are the manufacturing jobs going to set up shop that the citizenry and politicians supposedly want so bad. That’s what the landuse is already geared for so don’t lose it to other.

    I want an industrial/manufacturing resurgence too and I would love to see the freight ROW go back into use the way it was at one point. Rail can ship goods from South Central communities once again and get those big-rig semi trucks out of the streets.

    Keep freight rail alive in South Central communities and follow the San Fernando Road corridor example from the San Fernando Valley communities noted above.

  9. It’s about time. This area of South LA is ready for major gentrification. Many homes are worth saving and the proximity to DTLA makes this a totally viable neighborhood for those trying to cut their commute and own a home. I see this area reaching the 750k in the next several years.