DOWNTOWN — The California Supreme Court on Monday upheld previous lower court decisions and denied a challenge from a group of Westside homeowners to stop construction of the Expo Light Rail Line from Culver City to Santa Monica, finding the environmental review was sufficient.
In the 6-1 decision, the court agreed the environmental report failed to disclose the effects the project will have on existing conditions in the project area, but the report satisfied the California Environmental Quality Act requirements by including mitigation measures for potentially significant spill-over parking impacts in the neighborhoods of certain planned rail stations.
In 2010, Neighbors for Smart Rail filed a lawsuit to block construction of phase two of the transit line out of concern that the Exposition Construction Authority allegedly failed to properly study the project’s impacts on traffic and the environment by using hypothetical traffic conditions as a baseline.
“We are gratified that the California Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court rulings,” said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe in a news release. “Today’s decision is a win for taxpayers and the future riders who will soon benefit from a direct connection between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. We remain focused on finishing the Expo Line on time and on budget in 2015.”
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents much of the Expo Line alignment, said in an e-mailed statement, “with this litigation now behind us, Westside residents can look forward to an exciting new public transit option when the Expo Line is scheduled to open in 2015.”
In the decision, Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar said the Expo Authority should have analyzed the project’s effects on existing traffic congestion and air quality conditions. But she said, failure to do so didn’t deprive the agency’s decision makers or the public of substantial information relevant to approving the project.
Mike Eveloff, board member of Neighbors for Smart Rail, couldn’t understand the court’s decision.
“We’re confused because we won. We were right on the law,” Eveloff said.
He said the legal battle was “emotionally draining.” He added it was never the goal of Neighbors for Smart Rail to stop the line.
“We felt the analysis was improperly done. We are right. It was improperly done,” Eveloff said. “You fight to win the issue. We’ve won the issue but we didn’t win the case.”
Work on the $1.5 billion, 6.6-mile phase two extension is underway. The extension of the line from Culver City will include seven new stations, including a terminus at Colorado Avenue and Fourth Street near Santa Monica Place and the Third Street Promenade. Service on Phase 1 of the Expo Line began in Spring 2012.
Gabriela Collins, government/community relations manager for the Exposition Construction Authority, said currently all the bridges for Expo are under construction, including eight between Venice and Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards. She said construction has also started on the 26th Street Bergamot Station.
She said the contractor is also widening the road near the 17th Street Station and in the next couple of weeks will be installing the concrete barriers between 17th and 14th streets on Colorado Avenue.
For more information on Expo’s progress and construction impacts, visit www.buildexpo.org.