The final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Expo Light Rail, Phase 2 will be submitted to Expo’s Board of Directors early next year for final approval — but we all will get a sneak peek on Wednesday.
There are two major problems with Expo service in Santa Monica. One is the location of a maintenance/train storage yard on Verizon’s property between Stewart Street and Centinela Avenue, adjacent to Exposition Boulevard. The other is the route Expo will take down Colorado Avenue to a termination at Fourth Street.
Neighbors and members of the Pico Neighborhood Association have voiced their opposition to noise, pollution and other negatives associated with having such an industrial operation near homes. One plan is to position the maintenance facility at the northern edge of the property, isolating it from neighbors by building new multi-story, mixed use buildings to block sound from drifting across Exposition.
But, isn’t there something wrong with building apartments, of all things, as buffers for noise and pollution?
Pico neighbors recently toured light rail maintenance facilities in Pasadena and the South Bay courtesy of the Expo Construction Authority. Reactions were mixed with some folks saying that an indoor facility may mitigate much noise and potential pollution while others were concerned about the screeching of 270-foot long trains weighing several hundred tons as they turn in and out of the yard.
Some neighbors would like to see the yard moved to another location although the Expo Construction Authority has evaluated and eliminated some 40 possible sites leaving the Verizon site as the best location.
More problematic for me is track alignment that would send as many as 24 trains per hour up and down the center of Colorado Avenue at street level from roughly 17th Street to Fourth Street. The Expo Authority originally recommended a partially elevated alignment down Olympic Boulevard with elevated flyovers at Lincoln Boulevard and freeway off ramps before terminating above ground at Fourth Street. Putting the “visual blight” of overpasses ahead of safety and traffic, City Hall unfortunately backed Colorado.
On Colorado, traffic and parking lanes will be removed to accommodate track. With trains running at grade, numerous and lengthy traffic delays will occur at intersections with 20th, 17th, 14th,11th, Seventh and Fifth streets and Lincoln Boulevard, leaving motorists in traffic jams plenty of time to enjoy the uncluttered view.
Then, there are the safety issues. A similar street level (at-grade) configuration can be found on Washington Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles, which is part of the most accident-prone section of Metro’s Blue Line: “America’s deadliest light rail line.” Conversely, the South Bay Green Line with its elevated track and isolated alignment is virtually 100 percent accident free.
The Pasadena Gold Line (PGL), which Expo cheerleaders often use as an example of how safe at grade light rail can be, is an entirely different system that runs mostly on an isolated right-of-way and within the center divider of the Interstate 210.
According to the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix Expo, there’s no section of the PGL that compares to the Colorado plan backed by City Hall. The PGL operates with congestion-inducing crossing gates and grade separation at crossings with heavy traffic like Lincoln here.
The only portion of the 13-mile line that doesn’t have crossing gates or grade separation is a short, 3/4-mile section on a nearly traffic-free, two-lane, residential street in Highland Park where 45 percent of all the Pasadena Gold Line’s accidents still occur even with trains slowing to 20 mph and an “all-red” requirement at crossings.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 6:30 p.m., an update on Expo’s final EIR will be presented for public comment at the Civic Auditorium. Go! Speak up, especially about the Colorado alignment, which closely parallels adjacent multi-family residences and will cause multiple accidents and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in settlements for injuries and deaths.
And, if someone says, “It works in Amsterdam, Prague and Copenhagen,” tell ‘em, “Santa Monica isn’t quaint, old Europe.”
Take a shot of this
I was lucky enough to attend “Kids with Cameras,” a photo exhibition and “community conversation” at McKinley Elementary School, Saturday, Oct. 3.
Fifteen young people between the ages of 14 and 17 were recruited from local non-profit agencies including the Police Activities League. With support from the Santa Monica police and fire departments, they shot pictures over eight weeks under the tutelage of Fabian Lewkowicz (a professional photographer who shoots for this publication) with supervision by PAL’s Eula Fritz and PAL police officers.
The event was under the aegis of the Santa Monica Bay Human Relations Council and “designed to create an awareness of civic responsibility among Mid-City youth by encouraging them to explore their community and document their views through the lens of a camera.”
Their fabulous photos will be displayed at various city venues over the next few months. Check ‘em out.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org