Expo’s Bumpy Ride Continues

Dorsey High, At the Center of the Storm

The issue of grade separating Phase II of the Expo Line at Dorsey High School is back on the table after the Expo Board voted to undertake an Environmental Assessment on five different options for the grade separation at the Farmdale Avenue intersection. The Board stopped short of reopening the EIR (a move advocates of Phase II fear would kill the project) and claimed that the EA will not impact the schedule for the project.

The study will examine five options for the intersection:

1) The at-grade intersection plan as it is included in the EIR

2) A pedestrian bridge and closing the connecting road

3) Running the train below grade at and around the intersection

4) Running the train above grade at and around the intersection

5) Anything else they can come up with

Both sides seemed happy with the compromise. Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition stressed on the phone to me that this study shouldn’t delay the project. An email from Damien Goodmon, head of Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, declared victory stating simply, "It’s what we requested: that the study include the underpass option."

Meanwhile, the Expo Line faces delays in other areas. Phase I is already running behind schedule because of increased fees causing a conflict between the contractor and the authority, a cracked sewer pipe, and other unexpected impacts of construction.

Advocates for and against reopening the EIR spoke passionately before the board went into a closed session.

Karen Leonard, speaking on her own behalf, argued that the at-grade plans for the Farmdale intersection were much better than the treatments being given at schools along the Gold Line routes on the east side. "This project is a no-brainer, don’t blow it," she warned the board.

Fear for students’ safety was questioned by a letter written by two middle school students saying, "We and our friends aren’t as dumb as some groups would like you to believe…that we can’t look both ways before crossing a street nor could we not see flashing lights and gates which mean the trains are coming and to stop. These are things we’ve learned since Sesame Street."

Advocates for reopening the project were just as forceful. Clint Simmons accused Friends for Expo of being an "agency for the MTA" and claimed "you’ve got to be insane to think that this would be safe at grade running next to a high school."

Colleen Marion Heller brought a letter from her own. Dated in 1992, the letter was written by the Unified School District of Los Angeles, and raised concerns with both the way the project was being done and some of the safety concerns that we see now. Heller claimed this letter shows that the Expo project has been ignoring the safety concerns of the community for 16 years. Representatives of the Unified School District were present at today’s meeting and supported grade separating the crossing.

Now that both sides seem to have gotten what they wanted today, the question of what’s next for the Phase II looms large and whether or not the rhetoric of both sides can begin to cool down. Typically there is a public comment period as part of the EA procedure, but a time line for the EA (other than an estimated completion date) was not released today.

photo from answer.com

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