Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Metro board agreed Thursday to urge the city of Los Angeles to delay this Sunday’s closure of the Red Car line, a 1.5-mile rail car route along the San Pedro Waterfront set to stop operating on Sunday.

The Red Car line, operated by the Port of Los Angeles, is set to stay closed about 18 months to make way for construction work at the waterfront.

A realignment project along Sampson Way would result in the removal of a portion of the rail line. Port officials have said the cost of rebuilding new rail tracks elsewhere could be too costly, leaving it unclear what will happen to the Red Car line after the road work was completed.

The Metro board Thursday backed a motion by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe instructing Metro’s CEO Phil Washington to send a letter to the Port of Los Angeles asking the closure be delayed, at least in the portions that will not be affected by the construction work.

“There is a sense of urgency,” Knabe said, with this weekend’s scheduled closure.

“I think with this (motion) and getting the letter to them, we might be able to save” the Red Car line, he said.

Knabe said the rail line is a historic icon that deserves the same attention given to trying to reopen  downtown Los Angeles’s Angels Flight rail, recently the subject of a push by another board member, Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Red Car rail line was built in 2003 — at a cost of $10 million — on existing tracks along the San Pedro Waterfront.

It was the first time in decades that Red Cars have run in Los Angeles, with the line using restored and replica versions of the Red Cars that once served as public transportation throughout the city as far back as 1902, according to the port’s website.

Garcetti said he supports Knabe’s efforts to save the Red Car line.

“The more we make it practical and something people use, and maybe even a future alignment that takes it into places that (make the line something) even people in San Pedro use would do history the best justice, because the Red Car used to go places people needed to go,” Garcetti said.

“I’ll direct our executive director at the port and the port commission to continue to work and coordinate with Mr. Knabe” and other Metro officials, he said.

A petition with about 6,000 signatures also was submitted to the Metro board Thursday, asking the panel step in to try to save the rail line.

Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said the plan is still to suspend operation of the Red Car line, at least until the Harbor Commission, which meets next on Oct. 1, meets again.

Sanfield said  in a recent nine-year period between 2005 and 2013, the Red Car line cost the port $11.2 million to operate, while carrying more than 800,000 riders and bringing in $146,486 in revenue.

— City News Service 

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