Long Beach could get its own aerial tramway connecting the downtown to its waterfront in the next few years.
While the idea is far from a sure thing, the City Council voted to move ahead with a preliminary step at its Tuesday, March 12, meeting, approving the drafting of a feasibility study for the proposal.
Key to the vote, said Second District City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who brought the item forward, is that the city itself will not be stuck with the bill.
“This isn’t a commitment that the city is going to spend city dollars on this,” she said. “This is about visioning and doing this prep work that really allows (Queen Mary operator) Urban Commons to come in and develop something that works for the city, works with the waterfront and works with the residents.”
The idea of using some type of innovative transit system to connect the Queen Mary to the city’s downtown goes back more than a decade, with largely the same businessmen pushing for the concept all along.
Alex Bellehumeur, who has been the project’s most steadfast supporter over the years, detailed the history of setbacks the idea has faced over the years, including the Great Recession and the Queen Mary’s own financial woes.
But going through all of that, he said on Tuesday, made him that much more sure that now is the right time to move forward.
“We are, at this point, ready to take advantage of the time,” he said. “You might say that the third time really is the charm.”
Some on the council agreed that with the investments Long Beach is pouring into its waterfront right now, particularly ahead of the 2028 Olympics, now is the time to dream big.
“I really do think this is the prime time in the downtown,” said Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, “to really start exploring these great ideas and really providing different avenues for transportation.”
Along with determining the cost and timeline, the study will look into pinpointing more details of an actual proposal, like what stops an aerial tramway would make.
Clay Sandidge, another local businessman whom Bellehumeur chose as the project’s spokesman moving forward, has said the tramway would likely make four or five stops, including:
• the half-mile span between the Queen Mary and Hotel Maya;
• the Aquarium;
• the Visitors Bureau;
• the Metro station at Pine Avenue and First Street.
Mayor Robert Garcia, who has been enthusiastic about the prospect since his own time on the Tidelands and Harbor Committee, where it was presented in 2010, said he’s still a supporter.
“I think it’s a great way of connecting the pieces of Long Beach that need greater connections and greater transit opportunities,” he said. “In my view, this isn’t just an innovative project — this is a transit project.”
For Pearce’s part, she said that while it’s a big idea, she thinks it just might work.
“I think it’s fun to dream a little bit, and see what we can get to,” she said.