Neighborhood advocacy groups joined together to file a lawsuit against the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The Expo Light Rail (EIR) is under litigation for an allegedly insufficient Environmental Impact Report.
Filed March 5, the Neighbors for Smart Rail are mainly concerned with the at-grade street crossings at Overland, Westwood, and Sepulveda. The group calls for the Expo Board of Directors to restudy the EIR before building begins. The light rail project is funded under Measure R, a package approved by Los Angeles voters.
The Expo Light Rail project will run from the downtown Los Angeles Metro Rail Station to Santa Monica. The first phase of the project is underway connecting Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. Expo Line Phase 2 will run 6.6-miles from Culver City to Santa Monica.
The Board of Directors of the Expo Line Construction Authority certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for Phase 2 in February. The Expo Authority released a statement reaffirming “the overwhelming support of the communities on the Westside” and plans to “defend the project vigorously.” All construction will be halted until negotiations are complete.
The Expo’s release said that they are “confident that the Phase 2 project complies fully with the California Environmental Quality Act.” The $1.5 billion line is expected to open in 2015.
The Neighbors for Smart Rail is comprised of four neighborhood associations and more than 5,000 members. Tract 7260 President Michael Eveloff is part of the group that demands a reevaluation of the rail’s impact. Eveloff said the goal is not to delay the project, but to make sure it is done correctly the first time.
“When it really comes down to is this is going to be a project that will be with us for 100s of years,” Eveloff said. “There is no point in building something that is fatally flawed.”
Eveloff said the final EIR did not give a complete study of the project ramifications on traffic and neighborhoods. He called the report “sloppy” and did not consider the safety of school children crossing these areas. Given the lack of scope on the report, Eveloff said the lawmakers and public did not get a fair chance to evaluate the project.
The study did not accurately look at the traffic impacts of the at-grade crossings, such as at Sepulveda and Overland, he said. With the additional traffic to the train and freeway traffic, the traffic will overwhelm the thoroughfare. For the potential back-ups caused on Motor Avenue near I-10, he said the study didn’t even address the affect of cars taking alternate routes through neighborhoods due to traffic jams at the intersection.
“We try not to sue, but when we do, we do it for the right reason and boy, do we believe we are right,” Eveloff said.
In terms of which side will come out the victor, the tables are not tilted in either direction.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe will hear the case. Yaffe has ruled in favor of government transparency issues, but notably ruled against the opponents of the Orange Line construction in 2004.
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