CIVIC CENTER — Santa Monica residents can feel pretty certain that they will have access to three light rail stations by 2015 that will connect the city to Downtown Los Angeles through the Exposition Light Rail line.

What that will look like, exactly, is still up for debate.

Santa Monica and the Exposition Light Rail Authority continue to hash out designs and price tags for three light rail stations — located along Colorado Avenue at 26th, 17th and Fourth streets — set to arrive in the city by 2015.

Residents who went to a Tuesday night meeting at the Civic Center were greeted not with certainties, but with “maybes,” spelled out in black and white on large pieces of cardboard perched above technical station designs, which onlookers perused like parents at a school science fair.

City Hall and the Expo Authority are negotiating for enhancements to the stations that go above and beyond the features included in the baseline designs offered by the authority, including an additional platform at Bergamot Station on 26th Street and a second entrance on the western end of the 17th Street/Memorial Park station for easy access.

The two organizations are making progress on incorporating the proposed changes, said Monica Born, a project manager with Expo.

“The majority of the things that the city requested, we were able to meet in design,” Born said.

Expo already planned to invest $1.5 billion in the creation of the second leg of the 15-mile light rail corridor, which will link the first phase, which ended in Culver City, to Downtown Santa Monica.

Any extras, like the betterments described, will cost City Hall.

“We’re in the process now of making sure the estimated costs are reasonable,” said Kate Vernez, deputy city manager for special projects.

The City Council already approved an additional $245,000 to plan the improvements for Bergamot Station, and $120,000 for the plan changes to 17th Street/Memorial Park Station, Vernez said.

Now it’s a matter of reviewing individual line items on the ledger with Expo and the design-build team Skanska-Rados to make sure the construction costs, personnel costs and equipment costs stay within the proposed budget.

The hard numbers for both of the easterly stations will be presented to the City Council on Dec. 6.

Even larger changes are expected for the terminus station at Colorado Avenue and Fourth Street, which city officials felt was poorly oriented for future train riders.

Santa Monica planners came up with an entirely new design for the terminus, which would rotate almost 90 degrees to allow residents and visitors easy access to the main shopping areas to the north and parks to the south.

City Hall will pick over the costs associated with the baseline design offered by design-builder Skanska-Rados to make sure the new design is priced fairly.

As the big pieces of the project come together, it’s the details that left some attendees discomfited.

Mark Goldman is an instructor of architecture at the University of New Mexico Toas campus. He grew up in Santa Monica, and stopped by the meeting expecting to “be wowed by something amazing.”

That didn’t happen.

“It’s missing an element of creativity, and thinking outside the norm,” Goldman said, and went on to compare the incoming light rail design to the Los Angeles freeway system.

The stations lack a certain individuality, Goldman said, unlike those in other major metropolises like New York City or Chicago.

One possible solution lies in the hands of former Planning Commissioner and architect Gwynne Pugh and Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick, the city representatives on the Urban Design Committee who will help guide what public art will adorn local stations.

Whatever their final appearance, the stations will represent 22 years of work to create a light rail line that planners expect will carry 64,000 people per day by 2030.

ashley@smdp.com