It used to exist only on a map. But for awhile now, Santa Monica and West L.A. residents along the Expo light rail line have been able to see—and hear—the route being prepared. Sometimes they even feel it or taste it.
Residents were reminded at an Expo update meeting on Wednesday that they face another two-years-plus of noise, dust and traffic delays before the first test train rolls between Santa Monica and Culver City. Regular service begins in 2016. Service on Expo’s Phase 1 between downtown L.A. and Culver City began earlier this year.
Using maps, schematics and artists’ renderings, Expo officials presented an update on the line’s final design and current construction.
Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court is reviewing a lawsuit and a motion for an immediate halt to construction by a group of Westwood and Cheviot Hills residents. Neighbors For Smart Rail contends Expo’s environmental review did not adequately assess the line’s impact on their neighborhoods. A specific concern is when the train route is on a street.
That will also be the situation near its western end, on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica.
Councilman Kevin McKeown, at the Expo meeting, said the city wanted it that way and not on an elevated platform, to avoid "a huge urban infrastructure in the middle of our city… that would be visible and audible for blocks around."
Near the Expo terminus at Colorado and Fourth Street in Santa Monica, McKeown said, the trains will be much like buses, obeying stoplights.
"There will be changes in traffic flow but we think they’ll be manageable," McKeown said.
While Phase 2’s route and station designs are set, Expo pegs the design of the companion bike route at about 30 percent complete. That route will open simultaneously with the rail service, as was done with the rail and bike routes in Phase 1.
Some avid cyclists, however, have been slow to applaud Phase 2's bike route. Santa Monica rider Eric Weinstein said he feels Expo’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) has been marginalized, leaving the bike route with many trouble spots. He’s particularly concerned about the safety of young people who don’t ride their bikes every day.
"For $1.5 billion dollars they could do a lot better," Weinstein said of the estimated cost of the entire Phase 2 project. "We’re not seizing the moment to get a bikeway that’s separated from traffic. Instead, we’re getting the cheapest possible thing."
Expo’s Gabriela Collins says the agency has been "working more closely" with the BAC in recent months, "addressing the more challenging areas."
A prime example is the Pico/Gateway intersection, where riders encounter "traffic coming in all sorts of directions," Collins said. Revisions have been made to the bike route there in consultation with the City of Los Angeles' Department of Transportation and a review by the BAC.
South Brentwood rider David Holtzman said the bike route will give cyclists more options to go east across the 405 freeway.
"This train line follows a fairly level route; bike riders will gravitate to a flatter route," he said.