City OKs study to determine if gondolas are an answer to Queen Mary traffic

The city will begin working with the operator of the Queen Mary to determine whether a gondola system is a feasible way to bring visitors to the ship across the bay.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to start the outreach process to interested parties so that a feasibility study can go forward. Urban Commons, which entered into a long-term lease with the city in 2016, is in the process of submitting its plans for developing the 54 acres around the ship and a transportation plan will be part of that, Assistant City Manager Tom Modica said.

Modica said that if the city were to contribute any level of funding it would be a “very low amount,” saying this was Urban Commons’ project and that the city was just helping to bring stakeholders to the table. He estimated that a feasibility study could cost around $100,000, but didn’t say what portion, if any, the city would pay.

Getting people to and from the Queen Mary will be critical if the lot is to be developed, as the area is often snarled with traffic during high-attendance events. Urban Commons released grand plans for a redesign of the surrounding property in 2017. The $250 million “Queen Mary Island” renderings included a boardwalk, cafes, bars and 700,000 square feet of retail space.

But it did not include transportation options to get visitors to the site other than the two current land options, which include Queensway Drive and the 710 Freeway that ends at the ship.

Getting more people around the Downtown area in less cars could be critical in the coming years as the city is set to host events during the 2028 Olympics and has entered into preliminary negotiations with the Los Angeles Angels to potentially construct a waterfront stadium in Downtown.

Installing a gondola to shuttle people across the bay from Downtown Long Beach could reduce stress on the streets that feed into the site by taking cars off the road and putting visitors into the air. Similar projects are being considered in San Diego and Los Angeles, where a proposal to connect Union Station to Dodger Stadium was pitched last year.

The San Diego project has been projected to cost around $50 million per mile, according to a report from KPBS San Diego. The Dodger Stadium project could cost as much as $125 million.

Modica said that the city would determine what amount of funding to dedicate to this project, if any, after the feasibility report is finished.

Mayor Robert Garcia said that he would look to outside funding agencies, such as Metro, if the project ends up moving forward. Garcia sits on the transportation agency’s board of directors, and noted that Metro has already begun negotiating with developers for the Dodger Stadium project over funding.

“There are lots of conversations around different types of transit, and in my view, this isn’t just an innovative project, this is a transit project,” Garcia said. “And any way that we can invest in public transit and bring in partners that are doing that work I think is really important.”

City to study possibility of aerial tramway connecting Queen Mary to Downtown

The city has been down this road before. Installing a gondola-type system to connect the mainland with the Queen Mary is an idea that has been kicked around for nearly two decades. But this time it looks like it could be moving forward.

Former Harbor Commissioner and gondola advocate Alex Bellehumeur proposed the idea previously, and is now part of a group that re-pitched the idea to the Long Beach Commercial Real Estate Council last year. Bellehumueur’s tram vision is dubbed “the Wave.”

Clay Sandidge, co-developer of “the Wave,” said the group has assembled a world-class team that includes WSP, a global engineering firm, and Doppelmayr-Garaventa, the largest manufacturer of aerial trams and gondolas in the world.

“We do have a world class team that can really evaluate what the right options are for connecting the downtown to the waterfront,” Sandidge said.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.