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Westsiders check out plans for Phase 2 of the Exposition Light Rail Line during a community meeting held Wednesday at the Civic Auditorium. (photo by Sean Fitz-gerald)

CIVIC CENTER — The Exposition Construction Authority updated Santa Monica- and Los Angeles-area residents on developments for Phase 2 of the Expo Light Rail Line at a community meeting Wednesday.

Staff members from Expo, the design-build contractors Skanska/Rados and the landscaping contractors Marina Landscape, Inc. discussed how to make the project go smoothly with a 30-minute presentation, and facilitated community discussion with a one-hour, interactive open-house session.

Phase 2, which was approved in 2010, completes the second half of the Expo Line and adds stops spanning Culver City and Santa Monica. The first phase, already in operation, connects Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City.

“We’re concluding the design phase — we’re at about 85 percent — and we’re starting to actually do some construction,” said Robb Fonkalsrud, the Skanska/Rados segment manager for the Santa Monica extension. “We’re very excited about [Phase 2] — it’s a sign of what’s coming, and it’s really developing into a world-class project.”

The combination of Phase 1 and Phase 2 will yield a 15.2-mile corridor, connecting Downtown and Santa Monica, and will include 19 stations — two shared with the Blue Line, said Expo spokeswoman Glenda Silva. Construction for both line segments will total approximately $2.4 billion.

Silva said major construction is slated for August 2012 and pre-construction activities — including sewer relocation and encasement and pavement and soil removal — have already begun in Santa Monica, mostly along Colorado Avenue.

From August until December 2012, Fonkalsrud said major construction will involve removing existing track from the Bergamot Station area, constructing soundwalls along the planned corridor, erecting mechanically stabilized embankments for the Olympic and Centinela bridges, adjusting parking spaces along Colorado Avenue, relocating water lines, installing underdrains and demolishing buildings — specifically two small sheds near 14th Street and a building on the corner of Fifth Street and Colorado.

On a big-picture scale, construction projects for 2013 and 2014 will feature station construction, track installation, roadway improvements and electrical system and train controlling.

In 2015, trains will be tested and landscaping installation will begin. The line is expected to be ready for public use by 2016.

“[The Expo Line] is great,” said Frank Swanson, a Santa Monica resident. “We’ve been waiting the past five to 10 years to get this going.”

Swanson favors the project because he said it has the potential to relieve traffic and make venues such as Dodger Stadium, Staples Center and L.A. Live more accessible.

Though a portion of community members shared Swanson’s enthusiasm, others expressed concern over construction issues.

Barbara Filet, a member of the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee and Santa Monica Spoke, said bicycle integration is severely at risk.

“The Expo Line Construction Authority is so set on delivering the rail under budget and on time that they’re disregarding the bike path,” Filet said. “The way that they’ve set up the rail gives [cyclists] a very small amount of space.”

Filet and a select few — including Gary Kavanagh, who was also present at the meeting — were appointed to the bicycle committee by the Santa Monica City Council to work with Expo.

Both Kavanagh and Filet said they’ve made attempts to set up meetings with Expo but haven’t received any sort of response.

Filet said the committee has problems regarding the installation of bike channels on the sides of staircases, the insufficiency of bike parking spaces and lockers, the safety of intersections and the security of parking spaces.

“We’ve been voicing our concerns, but it may be some time before we know where we’re headed with these issues,” Kavanagh added.

Another area of conflict is the landscaping aspect of Phase 2.

Charles Miller, the chair of the transportation and safety committee of the Palms Neighborhood Council and the co-founder of lanative.org, disapproved of Expo’s failure to consider native plant species for the landscaping of Phase 2.

Through his involvement with lanative.org and other community groups, Miller said he has been working to generate awareness and to encourage Expo to make the switch from non-native to native plant species.

“The [Expo Line Board of Directors] passed a motion on June 7 that told Expo Authority they needed to work with the community groups and go with an all-native palette for landscaping,” Miller said. “Thus far, [Expo Authority and Marina Landscape, Inc.] have completely resisted that.”

Projected for Phase 2 are the Chinese ginkgo, Mexican fan palm and African sumac — all exotic tree species.

Micah Postil, a representative from Marina Landscape, Inc., said the contractors are trying to incorporate as many natives as possible.

“The only problem is that the natives can grow quite large, and that can cause a security problem,” Postil said. “Natives also need full sun, and a lot of the areas that are being landscaped are shaded.”

Other community members seemed to be on the fence about the Expo Line.

Victor Davich, a Santa Monica resident, said he was a proponent of sensible projects but wasn’t sure if the new railway would obviate traffic congestion.

“Why would they stop building [at Colorado Avenue and Fourth Street]?” he said, pointing to a map. “The beach traffic is there, and it’s not going away. I’m not sure why we’re spending billions of dollars on a project that won’t alleviate these problems.”

Torri Hill, the Expo community relations manager, said the goal of the community meetings is to let people voice their concerns, ask questions and for Expo, Skanska/Rados and Marina to garner feedback for design modifications.

“These people come to these meetings with questions, and they get answers,” Hill said. “They might be a little apprehensive at first, but the more they learn, the more supportive they are. That’s actually what has made Santa Monica such a great city to work with.”

news@smdp.com

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