Three months ago, City Council piled on criticisms about proposed plans for a public site next to the Downtown Expo station.

On Tuesday, council quickly approved of new, toned-down plans for the area, asking that city planners make haste.

City Hall owns some land next to the incoming Expo Light Rail’s terminus station between Fourth and Fifth streets on Colorado Avenue. City planners are now suggesting a two-part project that would help riders get to and from the station.

First, an upper lot would be built with two shuttle slots, 10 parking spaces, and six “kiss-and-ride” pick-up and drop-off areas. Kiss-and-ride allows a driver space to take a commuter to or from the station.

This portion of the project can be completed around the time of the opening of the light rail, scheduled for early next year.

A second phase would come about six months later, after the construction of a ramp, and would add a lower lot with six shuttle spaces and 11 kiss-and-ride slots. Then, the upper lot would be revamped to add 30 parking spaces.

Council approved of the project, voting 6-0 to move it forward — an improvement from the first iteration of the project, which council sent back to the drawing board.

City planners cut six bus berths that would have been located on-site. Instead, two Big Blue Bus stops will be added in the surrounding area.

The new project also does away with public restrooms and an information booth. All said, this resulted in a $4.6 million savings. City planners said they also saved money by reducing the amount of landscaping and making minimal improvements to the pedestrian area.

During the public testimony, former Mayor Judy Abdo suggested council request the process be expedited.

“It just seems like an idea that’s being talked about instead of an idea that’s being analyzed and worked on,” she said.

City planner Sarah Lejeune told council that they are also considering surrounding properties, like the Sears building, when building the transit hub.

“That is the intention that we would look at all the opportunities and levels scenarios for the different sites,” she said. “Obviously we don’t control the privately held sites but we can envision what might work really well there in hopes that if all of the ducks line up we might be able to get the optimal solutions.”

Councilmember Ted Winterer approved of this approach.

“I sort of like to take the widest possible look at the surrounding sites so that we coordinate all this stuff,” he said.

Winterer and Councilmember Terry O’Day asked about larger-scope projects, like the realignment of the freeway off-ramp and the capping of the freeway between Ocean Avenue and Fourth Street to make land for a park or other public property.

City planners said that these projects are still on the table but will require more conversations with Caltrans, the state agency that governs the freeways.

dave@www.smdp.com

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