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Expo Line at Crossroads

By Jorge Casuso

March 28 -- Santa Monicans can bring the approaching Expo Line into sharper focus next week, when transit officials hold a community workshop in the city discusses alternative routes and stations that will soon take a more concrete form.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), who have nearly finished hammering out an environmental impact report (EIR) also will seek input on potential grade crossings, station and parking locations and bike routes.

The meeting, which will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Crossroads School, will give the public an opportunity to weigh in on two alternative routes being considered for the second phase of the project from Culver City to Santa Monica.

Another Westside meeting will be held Thursday at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, located at 3200 Motor Avenue in Los Angeles.

One route runs on the Exposition right-of-way directly into Santa Monica, the other bypasses Cheviot Hills -- where residents have organized to oppose the line from running through their Westside community -- and takes Venice Boulevard to Sepulveda.

“If we can stay on pace, the Santa Monica phase could begin as early as 2014,” said Council member Pam O’Connor, who chairs the MTA Board in charge of the regional transit system. “But that’s the best case.

“Who knows under current economic conditions,” O’Connor added. “We can’t predict.”

The estimated cost of bringing the rail line from Culver City -- where the phase from Downtown LA will be completed in 2010 -- has mushroomed from some $800 million a year ago to between $1.1 billion for a direct route and $1.6 billion if the line is diverted along Venice Boulevard, according to transit officials.

But no matter the route, the destination will be Santa Monica, where two routes and three potential stations are being studied, according to City officials.

One route would run on the Olympic Boulevard median. The City has requested that MTA officials study straddling the tree-lined median and placing one-way rail lines along the sides, said Ellen Gelbard, the Planning Department’s assistant director.

The second option, which City officials have asked the MTA to study, would take the line at grade along Colorado, eliminating the need to lift the rail as high as 30 feet off the ground to scale the 10 Freeway, Gelbard said.

The MTA also is exploring where the stations in Santa Monica will go. In addition to a terminal Downtown and another at Bergamot Station near Cloverfield Boulevard, the City has asked the MTA to study adding a station around 17th Street to service Santa Monica College and the hospitals, City officials said.

The MTA’s initial plan calls for a final stop on the rail line to Santa Monica at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue at the Sears Automotive building the City bought two years ago just four blocks east of the pier entrance.

But an alternative plan is being considered that would place the final station on Colorado Boulevard in front of Santa Monica Place.

City officials hope that when the light rail line is completed, visitors will be hopping aboard, helping to meet the goals of a Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) update that will direct development in Santa Monica for the next 20 years.

Under the update presented to the council February 26 and the Planning Commission last month, the plan would try to achieve “no new net car trips” by “proactively managing congestion” and “establishing citywide transportation and parking districts,” said Planning Director Eileen Fogarty.





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