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Students and teachers walk across 20th Street on Thursday afternoon. The proposed light-rail system is a major concern for parents and teachers due to the heavy traffic along Olympic Boulevard. (photo by Brandon Wise)

OLYMPIC BLVD — It happens every day before and after school, groups of young children walking up and down the busy corridor here, carrying backpacks and chatting as cars speed by.

While it’s hardly the most pedestrian-oriented street, parents at Crossroads School fear that it will be even less so if Olympic Boulevard is chosen as the route for the anticipated Exposition Light Rail when it comes to Downtown Santa Monica from Culver City.

Parents and administrators of the private school, which has two campuses along the boulevard, came out in full force at the City Council meeting earlier this week when Expo authorities briefed officials on the results of the Draft Environmental Impact Report in which the different alignments were discussed.

MTA authorities are expected to select an alignment following the 45-day comment period for the DEIR.

The report, which was released last month, explored four different route options, including two that would travel along the Metropolitan Transportation Authority-owned right-of-way, which hits various Los Angeles streets before branching off to either Colorado Avenue or Olympic Boulevard, and another set that would divert from the right-of-way and take Venice Boulevard to Sepulveda Boulevard before traveling down either Colorado or Olympic.

Any route that would take Olympic would require the rail to go above grade with an elevated station at the current Sears automotive site on Fourth Street and Colorado.

The overwhelming sentiment among councilmembers and residents at the meeting was that Colorado was the preferred alternative.

“We need to look carefully at the fact that it wouldn’t be in the best interest of children … to have those rail lines running along the middle of Olympic Boulevard,” Mary Farrell, a crossroads parent and trustee, said.

In addition to both Crossroads campuses, Olympic is also home to the Police Activities League, which is an afterschool program, and Memorial Park, which has a skate park and hosts youth baseball games.

Liz Resnick, the upper school director for Crossroads, pointed out that many students travel back and forth between the two campuses throughout the day since the athletic facilities are located on the north side of Olympic. She added that the school uses the median, which would get taken out, for emergency evacuation.

The Exposition Construction Authority is in the process of constructing the first phase of the project, which will take the light rail from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, costing approximately $868 million. The second phase, which would bring Expo to Downtown Santa Monica, is estimated to be completed in 2015 and cost anywhere from $932 million to $1.4 billion, depending on the alternative.

Taking Colorado would cost about $50 million less than Olympic, Expo authorities said.

The Olympic alternative has also received opposition from the Santa Monica Treesavers because of the proposed removal of 44 coral trees along the landscaped median.

“San Vicente (boulevard) to the north and Olympic to the south define and give identity to the city with the wonderful line of coral trees,” said Gillian Ware, an artist and tree advocate.

The Colorado alignment would remove one travel lane in each direction, eliminate parking on one side and could require property acquisition.

Expo authorities are also looking into opening a maintenance yard at the current Verizon site, which is between the right-of-way and Exposition Boulevard. The facility would be used to check trains’ brakes, horns and lights. The site is near residences.

Councilmember Bobby Shriver said he was shocked to see a maintenance yard proposed for that section of the city.

“We should do whatever we can to prevent that from happening,” he said. “It seems to me if Verizon sells that property, we should buy it and build some housing there.”

melodyh@smdp.com

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