Transportation officials for decades have talked of--and Angelenos have pined for--direct rail service to Los Angeles International Airport.
But that idea suffered a serious blow Thursday when the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority placed on the back burner a proposal for a light-rail tunnel under the terminal area.
Citing high costs and risks involved in tunneling under terminals and runways, Metro officials will now primarily focus on routes that would leave the north-south Crenshaw/LAX Line as much as 1.5 miles east of the airport.
A people-mover, similar to the circulator train found at San Francisco International Airport, would then take passengers to their terminals.
Unless the plan changes significantly, L.A. would soon infamously boast two light-rail routes that come near LAX but do not deliver passengers to their terminals, a problem that has puzzled and frustrated many civic leaders and transit users.
While some planners and politicians see a rail link into LAX as central to the future rail system's success, board members Thursday agreed with a staff assessment that the construction risks are too great and the estimated $3-billion price tag too high to bring the Crenshaw line under LAX's runways and passenger areas.
Officials say tunneling is the only practical way to reach the terminals.
City airport director Gina Marie Lindsey voiced her apparent opposition to the idea, saying, "Any time you go under the airport, it is fraught with problems."
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti told Metro board members he thinks tunneling will be too expensive and said later he favors connecting the Crenshaw line to a ground transportation hub near the airport. There, passengers might be able to get their tickets and check their bags, but he stressed he will continue to analyze other options.
Nevertheless, the board did agree to leave open the possibility of building stations under the airport after further review of cost and ridership estimates. Meanwhile, board members approved reviews of four options that would stop trains outside the terminal area.
One approach would bring the people-mover out nearly two miles to the east, to meet the Crenshaw line at the planned Aviation/Century station.
Another calls for a ground-level or aerial station at Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street, paid for by the airport.
The third option would shift the Crenshaw line to the west, where it would link up near what is now Parking Lot C with a people-mover and a proposed shuttle bus and rental car hub.
Under the final option, a light-rail station would be built near the eastern entrance to LAX and connect to a people-mover.
Also to be decided is how Metro and LAX would split the bill for any airport connection with each side already agreeing to put forth at least some share of the bill.