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Expo Releases Phase 2 Final EIR:

The center of Colorado Avenue west of 17th Street in Santa Monica and the old rail right-of-way through Cheviot Hills are the “recommended preferred” routes selected in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for Phase 2 of the Expo light rail line released Friday, December 18.  In addition, the Final EIR revises the layout for the maintenance facility near Stewart Street and Exposition Boulevard so as to include, among other things, a buffer of land between the facility and residences south of Exposition.

The Final EIR (over 15,000 pages, accor ding to Expo’s Gaby Collins) represents the final environmental document regarding Expo Phase 2 – the proposed extension of the Expo light rail line from  Culver City to Santa Monica – that will be considered for certification by the Expo Authority Board on February 4, 2010.  “Should that board certify the document and approve the project,  engineering and design work will commence and construction may begin in late 2010,” said a release issued by the Expo Construction Authority (Expo).

The Phase 2 study began in 2007, and a Draft EIR was released in January 2009.  According to the Final EIR released last week, over 8,979 written and oral comments were received on the Draft EIR.  Expo cites “key changes” in the Final EIR as including:

• Inclusion of a design option that removes the park-and-ride lot at the Westwood  station;

• A Maintenance Facility design option which includes Santa Monica College and  Verizon properties with a 100-110 foot buffer, providing additional protection from the  residential community to the south of the proposed facility;

• Accommodation of a continuous bikeway from the Phase 1 terminus to Santa Monica;

• An additional grade separation at Centinela;

• Addition of a third northbound lane on Sepulveda for the at-grade crossing;

• Inclusion of a design option for grade separation at Sepulveda if outside funding  sources become available.

“The release of the Final Environmental Impact Report for Expo’s second phase marks  another milestone on the road to completing this vital public transit link,” said Los Angeles  County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.  “It is now up to the Expo Authority Board to carefully evaluate this document and make its final judgment on this project for which Westside  communities have been waiting so long.”   

The maintenance facility in Santa Monica has been the subject of considerable discussion among Pico Neighborhood residents, Expo, and the City of Santa Monica.  An initial review of the enormous Final EIR (the “executive summary” is 54 pages) indicates that the accommodations outlined at the November 24 Santa Monica City Council meeting [Santa Monica Mirror, December 3-9, 2009] have been incorporated into the document.

Now, the maintenance facility “would occupy only a portion of the Verizon site, with an extension of the facility into the existing Santa Monica College parking lot to the west,” according to the Final EIR.  “Utilization of the adjacent parking lot on the west side of the Verizon site would create an approximate 100- to 110-foot buffer between the Maintenance Facility and the residential area on the south side of Exposition Boulevard.”

Many Cheviot Hills residents objected to running the Expo line on the old rail right-of-way through that neighborhood, and proposed that the line instead be routed west on Venice Boulevard and north from Culver City on Sepulveda Boulevard to then continue further west on the right-of-way.  The Final EIR rejects this longer, slower alternative, although its proponents argued that it would serve the denser population along Venice and Sepulveda.

The Final EIR is comprised of the Draft EIR with revisions, comments received during the  public review period, and responses to the comments.  It is available for viewing online at  www.buildexpo.org, and a hard copy can be viewed at the Expo offices in downtown Los Angeles at 707 Wilshire Boulevard, 34th floor (213.243.5500).

On Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 2 p.m., the Expo Authority Board will consider a recommendation to certify the Final EIR and approve the project.  This meeting will be held in the L.A. County Board of Supervisors hearing room on the third floor of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of  Administration, 500 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles 90012.  There will be  a time limit per speaker.  More information is available at the project website (www.buildexpo.org) or the Project Hotline (213.922.3976).

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