All aboard Expo to the Westside
February 2, 2010
This Thursday marks a turning point in the decades-long effort to bring mass rapid transit to the Westside of Los Angeles. That’s when I, along with my colleagues on the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board, will cast a crucial vote on extending the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica.
I intend to vote yes, and here’s why.
The Westside has waited for decades to become part of the growing regional mass transit system of Los Angeles County. While transit lines have been built in downtown, Pasadena, Long Beach, the San Fernando Valley and along the Century Freeway, the Westside’s public transit system is exclusively made up of street buses. The Expo Line will give commuters who work and live in the western part of L.A. County an alternative to sitting in their cars for up to 3 to 4 hours each day getting to and from work or school. For the first time since the legendary Red Car system was dismantled after World War II, the Westside will have mass rapid transit.
And Thursday’s vote is a key step to getting us there.
The Expo Board will consider the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for Phase 2 of the project, the section of the light rail that will run from Culver City to Santa Monica. We must approve the FEIR before we can award a design and construction contract for this long-awaited project. If approved, Phase 2 could begin some construction before the end of this year, with completion planned in 2015. The line’s ridership is estimated to be 64,000 a day by 2030.
The Expo Line in its entirety will connect downtown Los Angeles with Exposition Park/USC, Crenshaw, Culver City, Pico/Sepulveda, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The first phase, which runs between downtown and Culver City, is now under construction and working toward an opening next year.
The Expo Line has had its share of critics, with concerns raised about matters ranging from grade crossings, impact on neighborhoods and placement of the project’s maintenance yard to delays and noise during Phase 1 construction.
But I firmly believe that the FEIR has addressed these issues in great detail and that we can deliver a project that will reflect what our region wants and needs. Extensive analysis has been done to ensure that the Expo Line is built in a manner that is as respectful as possible of the communities through which it will run. New elevated grade separations have been recommended where appropriate. Those intersections include: Venice Boulevard, Bundy, Centinela, Pico-Gateway, Cloverfield/Olympic and Sawtelle. The remainder of the grade crossings will be at street level.
It’s significant to note that the overwhelming majority of the 9,000 comments received on the environmental impact report have been positive. State Senator Fran Pavley and Assembly members Mike Feuer and Julia Brownley also have voiced their support for the project. And the cities of Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica have partnered with Expo to build it.
The $1.5 billion Expo Line is being funded largely through the Measure R half-cent sales tax that was approved by county voters in 2008. The project, coupled with the extension of the subway westward, also partially funded through Measure R, will bring much-needed mass rapid transit to the Westside.
All of us have waited a long time for this moment. Building the Expo Line and extending the subway to the Westside are among the reasons I helped write Measure R and fought so hard to get it passed. An effective rapid transit system will improve our quality of life. System users will save time and money while reducing wear and tear on body and soul.
Come and join us at the Hall of Administration at 2 p.m. Thursday, and let’s get this train moving.