As the Expo Light Rail Line makes its way across town, excitement is building for Phase Two, the stretch that will run from Culver City to Santa Monica. Two local meetings about the project on February 17 and 18 drew a throng of interested residents.At the February 17 Expo Light Rail Phase Two workshop, community members heard from Santa Monica’s Planning Director Eileen Fogarty, along with transportation consultant Jeffrey Tumlin and Expo Construction Authority’s Monica Born.Born summarized the steps leading to the current phase of feedback and evaluation of the DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report). She listed the four alternative alignments for Phase Two – the two routes in West L.A. that would either use the Exposition Right-of-Way (RoW) or Venice and Sepulveda Boulevards, and the two Santa Monica alignments-Olympic or Colorado Boulevards.The Expo Line would enter Santa Monica along the RoW and would run above Olympic on an aerial track. It would remain elevated along the Olympic route. For the Colorado alternative, it would be elevated where it crossed Cloverfield Boulevard to run on Colorado, but would then descend to grade (street) level for the remainder of the route.The difference in travel time between the two routes is one minute, the Olympic route being slightly faster.Tumlin outlined issues to be studied in the DEIR. These include maintenance (the maintenance lot in Santa Monica will be “light maintenance,” involving cleaning of the trains and storage, rather than technical work), a bikeway (which will receive separate funding), property acquisition to provide land for parking, mitigation involving the relative narrowness of Colorado Boulevard, and problems with auto traffic’s ability to make turns (left turns will be limited to specific stops).Tumlin said that the Colorado route will be less expensive and less of an aesthetic issue, as the Olympic route, with its terminus at an elevated station at 4th Street and Colorado, might seem obtrusive to the downtown landscape.The Planning Commission has already expressed support for the Colorado alignment, as did the City Council, in initial discussion. Among other reasons for supporting Colorado, the Planning Commission cited the need for removal of 44 coral trees on Olympic Boulevard if that route was used.During the Q & A period that followed, many people had technical questions. Noise reduction? Born said that the DEIR includes a “Noise and Vibration” section that talks of reducing the trains’ “wheel squeal” via lubrication. How many cars on a light rail train? No more than three. Why an elevated track at Cloverfield? It’s necessary because of traffic congestion at the intersections of Cloverfield, Olympic, and Colorado. Why not use Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) for an elevated line? Tumlin pointed out that the stations would have to be located on the freeway and that commuters don’t enjoy standing on an elevated station platform (as passengers on the Metro Green Line know well).At the second Expo Phase Two meeting, held February 18 at Santa Monica High School, members of the public expressed personal concerns about the proposed routes.An overwhelming number of people voiced support for the Colorado route and disapproval of the Olympic route, citing concern for the coral trees and for traffic safety. Many speakers were parents of students at the Crossroads School, which is located on both sides of Olympic. Crossroads parents worried about the safety to children if a light rail line were to run on the street.Much was also said about the maintenance yard, which is to be located in a former Verizon facility east of Stewart Street. Neighbors living in the area, as well as prominent figures like Patricia Hoffman and Dennis Zane, protested the lack of any study of the impacts on the low-income residential area surrounding the site, as well as the fact that the DEIR does not propose any alternative site.The City Council is due to make recommendations to Expo after its March 3 meeting. The deadline for submitting comments in writing to Expo is March 13. Comments may be submitted online at BuildExpo.org.
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