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Will the Dodger Stadium gondola project move forward? Metro board votes "yes"

Will the Dodger Stadium gondola project move forward? Metro board votes "yes"
Will the Dodger Stadium gondola project move forward? Metro board votes "yes" 00:58

The Metro Board of Directors approved the environmental impact report Thursday for a proposed Dodger Stadium gondola project.

The board of directors certified the EIR with an 11-0 vote, marking a significant step forward in making the project a reality.

The 1.2-mile aerial gondola would connect Union Station and Dodger Stadium. The pathway of the gondola would run above Chinatown, Mission Junction, Elysian Park, and Solano Canyon, and include a station at the southernmost entrance of Los Angeles State Historic Park.   

Additionally, the board adopted a motion Thursday introduced by L.A. County Supervisor and Director Hilda Solis, establishing an inclusive community benefits agreement intended to address the concerns of impacted communities before construction would begin. 

The gondola dubbed the Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit Project, is getting plenty of attention both for its benefits and foreseen negative impacts. Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt originally proposed the project with $300 million of private funds to build and operate. In 2018, Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC offered to fund, construct, operate, and maintain the project.  

Opponents of the project estimate its cost will be closer to $500 million for construction, and an annual $8 million to $10 million for maintenance and operations. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez has opposed the project saying there aren't any assurances that it won't compete for public dollars. 

The proposal has gained significant pushback from some community members in neighborhoods surrounding the stadium who are concerned with potential environmental and economic impacts. Some cables and cabins would pass over private properties, sparking privacy concerns.

Residents and other stakeholders formed the Stop the Gondola Coalition in opposition of the project.

"The proposed gondola is not a public transportation project but rather a private tourist attraction that would benefit Frank McCourt and the entertainment complex he wants to build at Dodger Stadium," Stop the Gondola Coalition said in a statement Wednesday.

The environmental impact report noted major construction noise and vibration would occur. Traffic lanes would be closed during parts of the construction phase as well, which would require a detailed plan outlining street closures, lights and detours.

Metro has outlined possible mitigation efforts to address these issues, but acknowledged that impacts related to construction would remain "significant and unavoidable."

The project still requires further approvals from the city of Los Angeles, Caltrans, the California State Department of Parks and Recreation and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to move forward with construction.

Supporters of the gondola say the project would remove 3,000 cars from neighborhood streets and the 110 Freeway before and after Dodger games, leading to a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Councilwoman Hernandez expressed concern that there has been no study from local transit agencies demonstrating that the gondola would offer a "robust" solution to the impact of stadium traffic on surrounding communities compared with other zero-emission transit solutions, such as enhanced and targeted park-and-ride regional bus systems, improved pedestrian infrastructure, moving escalators and walkways, or other transit technologies.

"The communities that surround Dodger Stadium already bear the burden of the traffic congestion and increased pollution that stems from an increasingly year-round schedule of events at the stadium," Hernandez said in a statement. "Now, Metro is asking them to absorb the impact of constructing a gondola that would fly just feet over their homes and fundamentally change the landscape of their neighborhoods without ever demonstrating that this is the most effective and efficient way to mitigate stadium traffic."

A report published by the UCLA Mobility Lab two years ago found the gondola would "reduce traffic on major roads around Dodger Stadium on the night of a sold-out game, but the impact would likely be very limited," removing around 608 cars.

The community benefits agreement adopted by the board Thursday includes calls for an ongoing Chinatown revitalization, a revolving loan fund to offer low- and no-interest loans, and forgivable loans to local small businesses, entrepreneurs and street vendors.

It also establishes requirements for tree replacement parking, local job creation, workforce development, sustainable and affordable housing. 

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