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Metro gets federal grant for South LA bike, pedestrian path

A plan to convert an old freight rail line in South Los Angeles into a pedestrian and bike pathway got a boost this week with a $15 million grant from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, or TIGER, which funds transportation projects around the country. L.A.'s was one of 39 projects funded from a pool of $500 million.

The South L.A. Rail to Rail project will be a 6.4-mile path starting in Inglewood and running west along Slauson Avenue. The pathway will connect three major transit lines: the LAX/Crenshaw light rail now under construction, the Silver Line bus service and the Blue Line light rail.

Before Metro can start the project, the agency needs to secure an additional $19 million in state and local funds, so the timeline for construction and completion remains unclear.

Caption: Map shows the segment of the proposed pathway to be funded by the TIGER grant. (Credit: Los Angeles County Metro)

“With this investment, Angelenos will be able to efficiently access the Blue Line and the future Crenshaw/LAX Line,” said Mark Ridley Thomas, Metro chairman and Los Angeles County supervisor whose district will be served by the project.

“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,” he said.

Safe streets advocates in the community have championed  the project, among them the community group T.R.U.S.T. South L.A.. Executive Director Sandra McNeill points to the poor safety record of the neighborhoods' streets. About 20 percent of area residents don't own cars.

"South L.A. has some of the highest collision and fatality rates for bicycle and pedestrian in the county," McNeil said."To have this kind of commitment from the federal government is tremendously significant."

Metro CEO Phil Washington said the agency has already successfully reused other old train tracks for transportation projects, including the Chandler bike path in Burbank. "Rail to Rail will bring similar benefits to South L.A. residents," he said.