CIVIC CENTER — Exposition Construction Authority and design-builder Skanska/Rados representatives played to a packed crowd at the Civic Center Monday night to describe the project and elicit community input for the second phase of the Expo Light Rail line, which will terminate in Santa Monica.
It wasn’t clear if they achieved their goal.
“I was going there expecting to hear more about what was being proposed, and not really getting that,” said Planning Commissioner Gwynne Pugh, who attended the meeting as a civilian.
Expo CA advertising billed the meeting as a kick off to meet the contractor, Skanska/Rados, and learn about the design process and timeline.
The meeting began with a presentation that sketched a vague outline of the process moving forward, beginning with a design phase that’s expected to take 18 months.
Construction will begin before the design is complete, said Mike Aparicio, project manager for Skanska Civil USA.
Skanska is part of a joint venture with Steve P. Rados, Inc., which will build the project.
“We will be getting the design done as we work,” Aparicio said.
The builder committed to regular meetings with the community to get feedback, as well as to forming two groups — the Urban Design Committee and Bikeway Advisory Committee — with representatives from the public to make sure residents’ voices get heard throughout the process.
Elements of the project that community members can have meaningful impact on are few and far between, however.
The alignments of the project, physical aspects of the structures and station locations have all been mostly determined, Aparicio said.
“In the summer, there will be meetings for landscaping, the color palettes and finishes,” Aparicio said. “As other issues demand attention, we’ll be making sure the community and builders have a partnership.”
City Hall, Expo CA and Skanska/Rados are still in negotiations about several elements of the route, said Kate Vernez, assistant to the city manager.
While city staff were able to secure a second entrance to the Fourth Street terminus, things like side platforms at Bergamot Station — which would allow passengers to cross through the station rather than walk around it past 26th Street — are still in discussion.
“We started meeting with them in late February, and they got the contract in March,” Vernez said, referring to Skanska/Rados. “We’ve been meeting every Monday since that. Along the way, the city requests certain aspects of the design be looked at.”
Then, the design team negotiates with City staff about the cost of the requested changes, and whether or not the alterations can be included in the base cost of the light rail line, or if City Hall needs to pony up the extra.
How much City Hall is willing to spend to secure its preferred designs hasn’t been determined yet, Vernez said.
“First, we have to understand what the costs are,” she said.
City Councilman Kevin McKeown attended the meeting, and expressed concern that some aspects of the design and process may not please Santa Monicans who are used to getting more involved in large projects.
“Santa Monicans are used to responsive local control over local issues, but with the construction of the Expo line, we’re working with a regional entity whose mandate is budget and schedule,” McKeown wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “The stations and right-of-way that Expo proposes might not live up to local expectations, and I hope we schedule a full public hearing at the City Council soon to discuss improvements to the baseline plan, and how to fund them.”
Also of concern were questions about the bike path that will run alongside the light rail line from 17th Street to Downtown Los Angeles.
Bicyclist Eric Weinstein noted that the supposed bikeway next to the Bergamot Station stop was now being billed as a “multi-use pathway,” which accommodates both pedestrians and bicyclists.
“The multi-use pathway ceases to be an effective solution when you’re going 20 to 25 miles an hour,” Weinstein said. “We’d like the design to bring the bike path separate from pedestrians.”
The light rail train is still expected to arrive in 2015. Utility work will begin in the fall, with major construction beginning somewhere around Feb. 1.