Expo Delay? CPUC Judge’s Ruling Could Push Opening to 2013

Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission denied two proposed street crossings in South LA near Dorsey High School and the Foshay Learning Center.  Citing the ADA, Judge Kenneth Koss ruled that the authority needs to create pedestrian bridges, which would add another $18 million to the current $862 million price tag for Phase I of the project.  While Expo officials are already pleading that they don’t have the $18 million, it seems extremely unlikely that Metro would let a nearly $1 billion project die because they couldn’t come up with $18 million for pedestrian bridges.

However, the greater concern to Expo advocates is that the environmental and design phases for the bridge could easily delay the project’s opening for up to three years.  The light rail line was scheduled to open in 2013.

Damien Goodmon, head of the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line, wasn’t completely happy with the ruling.  He tells the LA Times that his group will continue to push for grade separation at each of the South LA schools.

However, if you know the loqacious Mr. Goodmon, you know that he wasn’t done with just a statement to the Times.  The full text of his media statement can be found after the jump.

n a decision regarding the Expo Line Construction Authority’s proposed
street-level crossing next to Dorsey HS, the judge has ruled MTA’s
crossing unsafe and the community and LAUSD’s safety concerns valid. 
The decision is a tentative decision that will either be adopted or
amended by the full PUC commission on November 21, but it is a major
milestone in the construction of the Expo Rail Line and struggle

"This is a major battle victory in a long and unfortunate war," said Damien Goodmon the Chair of United Community Associations, who’s project is the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line (Fix Expo).

"We are pleased that the Judge heard the safety concerns of the
rail safety experts, traffic experts, LAUSD and the community.  And we
are regretful that the Commission didn’t allow hearings on many of the
other crossings.  We believe that as the evidentiary hearings on
Farmdale and Harvard revealed the evidence used by the Expo Authority
to support their assertions that they are building a safe project is
unfounded and has been manipulated."

"We believe it is now incumbent upon our from the council
members to the congressional leaders to listen to the Judge’s and
experts concerns about the safety of this crossing, and take into
account the impact to the community of the grade separated options. 
This is a transportation project that will impact this community for
100 years.  It is important we have a safe light rail line that is a
compliment and a good neighbor to the South LA communities that it
passes through."

"Our intent is to now go back to the community and discuss this
further, but for now we are relieved that the street-level crossing has
been taken off the table."

Russ Quimby international rail
safety testified in the hearing that the street-level crossing left a
high risk of catastrophic accident (http://fixexpo.blogspot.com/2008/10/international-rail-safety-expert-russ.html):

As proposed, the Farmdale Avenue crossing creates a high
risk that students will be injured and killed because the proposed
safety mitigation measures essentially put the burden on students to
maintain their own safety. The proposed crossing also creates a higher
risk of a catastrophic accident. [….]

By
"catastrophic accident," I mean an accident involving fatalities and/or
injuries to a large number of people. As proposed, the at-grade
Farmdale Avenue crossing creates the notable risk that a catastrophic accident may well occur under one of several different scenarios.  For example:

First,
that a train will collide with a vehicle with sufficient force to
either derail the train into and/or push the vehicle into the proposed
"holding pens" where several hundred students are trapped inside,
killing or seriously injuring scores of students in a single accident.

Second,
that a train will collide with a vehicle (particularly a truck or bus)
rupturing and igniting a fuel tank which would engulf students in the
holding pen in flaming diesel or gasoline.

Third,
a combination of the above two scenarios where the students are crushed
and burned simultaneously by vehicles and/or a derailed train.

Regarding possible delay to the project:

"We have been saying the Farmdale crossing was not safe for over 15 years now.  But out of bureaucratic arrogance and political
indifference, MTA and our political leaders have fought us at every
turn.  So if there is a delay to the project, the delay is of MTA’s own
making.  References to the history of public comments regarding the
safety of the project are available on the web."

Link to history of community comments documented in MTA’s own studies: http://fixexpo.blogspot.com/2008/10/fact-community-has-been-expressing.html

Regarding budget impacts:

"MTA has appropriated $222
million extra dollars to the project – including to add a $54 million
overpass in Culver City, all the while telling us that there’s no money
for grade separation in South LA.  They have resources, they have many
options, they just have and continue to lack a concern for safety in
South LA."

Some excerpts from Koss’ ruling, which is available on the web here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/efile/PD/92649.htm

"A.07-05-013, for authority to construct and at-grade crossing at Farmdale Ave. in the City of Los Angeles, should be denied. "

"Authorization to construct a light rail line over an existing pedestrian  tunnel crossing at Harvard Blvd., in the City of Los Angeles, requested in  A.06-12-020, should be denied."

"Expo Authority proposed a state-of-the-art system of gates and other warning devices at the Farmdale crossing, including swing gates to allow pedestrians to exit the rail right-of-way when all other gates are down.  All of these gates, however, can be avoided easily by pedestrians. Considering the large number of crossings during peak periods, and the student populations using the crossing, we find that any system of gates or other warning devices at-  grade would not eliminate all potential safety hazards."

"The parties discussed several other crossings at or near school sites along other light-rail lines.  However, none of these cases presented the unique characteristics of the proposed Farmdale crossing at Dorsey.  This issue, therefore, provided little or no weight in our determination of practicability. "

  • Continuing Damien Goodmon’s descent into demagoguery. Of course he isn’t satsified. About now I am sure many of his NIMBY allies are asking what happened, why isn’t the project dead (from what they thought would be hundreds of millions added to the cost from a mandated tunnel they championed) etc. That has always been the real goal of these alleged activists not the safety of kids etc. It is NOBLAG all over again.

    There will be some politics involved in all this. The various California transit agencies have been unhappy at the growing perceived intrusive manner of that PUC (as happened with the Gold Line Phaser I and the Sprinter). You can bet pressure will be brought on the Commission since this ruling is not in line with grade crossing practice heretofore and many light rail projects across the state would be hobbled if this is the standard from now on. The transit agencies have just as much right as Damien and his crusaders to express views, etc. This is a public process.

  • Alan Fishel

    Why is the crossings at Farmdale and Harvard Ave’s not safe when the crossings on the soon to open East Los Angeles Gold Line directly passes 2 Elementary Schools, 1 Middle School, and 2 High Schools and within blocks of other schools. What about all of the other schools, parks, public buildings and hospitals that are adjacent to other Metro lines throughout Los Angeles, the State or even the US and around the world?

    Students are in more danger of being hit by an auto than by a LRT train. Through Damien’s actions he is costing all of us the money to build the bridges and the time lost to the opening just so he can get political recognition as a shaker in the neighborhood. If this plan comes to pass and Farmdale is closed it will be much more difficult for school busses and autos to drop off and pick up students. Being forced to navigate the bridge is something that I do not think that any of the students will look at as an improvement.

    Building a bridge for the LRT at Farmdale or Havard because Damien wants political recognition is wrong. The bridges at La Brea, La Cienega or Culver City have hundreds of thousands of cars passing daily but Firndale only has a few hundred cars pass daily and the intersection does not even warrant a traffic signal.

    The Expo Line will carry thousands of people a day that are now driving and it needs to be completed ASAP. Any delays are not appropriate or acceptable.

    If bridges have to be built which are not all that bad of an idea they can have “ramps” for ADA access and will not need elevators as with the pedestrian bridges on the Metro Blue Line and around the city. The cost will not need to be anything close to 18 million dollars. Also the EIR/EIS need not delay the lines construction since the bridges will be built separately from the line.

  • Jerard

    Alan,

    There’s a trade off to the amount of material and space those ramps need.

    For Farmdale it is easier and more cost effective to use an elevator because we would have to acquire additional space needed for the footprint of the ramps. In addition with a minimum 1:12 slope ratio and landings about every 3-5 feet in height elevation that is a lot of concrete and rebar needed to make this ramp work and there’s a needed space for ADA landings at the base of each ramp that has to be put in perspective.

    For the Harvard crossing, I believe since there’s an existing grade separation in place (ped. tunnel that is operated by LAUSD) that there should be a compromise to modernize it for ADA compliance and allow the funds to staff it during a longer operational window since space could be made available compared to Farmdale.

  • The full Fix Expo statement on the proposed decision is available on our website: http://www.FixExpo.org

    The title is, “Every once in a while David lands a good one on Goliath.”

    How unsurprised I am to see the same characters (Alan Fishel and Dana Gabbard) out in full force true to form with their personal character attacks/innuendo.

  • Linda Wei

    rock rock on Damien. after spending a considerable amount of time at and along various Blue Line stops thru south L.A., i applaud your effort and success so far in regards to the Expo Line Authority’s safety measures — or current lack thereof.

  • How quaint for Damien to declare himself the victim of character assassination when shortly after the Metrolink crash he declared all transit
    advocates not in lockstep with his alleged crusade as being lap dogs for the transit agencies. Not to mention his infamous gutter tirade in Santa Monica at a public meeting verbally abusing Rick Thorpe. Linda, is this kind of conduct to be applauded? Sorry, but some of us are not drinking Damien’s Flavor Aide.

  • Linda Wei

    well, that’s because all transit advocates ARE lapdogs of the transit agencies. transit advocates want transit infrastructure, so ass-kissing has to take place at one point or another in order for transit projects to be done. it’s just that in this case, it looks like certain transit advocates are bending over backwards to accommodate Expo Authority.

    anyways, i’m sure you guys are all smarter than me. i’m not here to add anything new. i’m just supporting damien because i’ve seen the crappy, dangerous clusterfck conditions that surround certain blue line stations and don’t want the expo line to end up with the same crappy, dangerous clusterf*cks some 10-15 years in the future.

    that other issue you talked about, dana, can be addressed in another post.

  • Well then Linda I guess Mr. Goodmon is in line with the style of advocacy you prefer and your worldview. Totally your right to do so. Just as some of us have a different view. Good luck.

  • “well, that’s because all transit advocates ARE lapdogs of the transit agencies” -Linda Wei

    Yeah, I ride my bike to MTA headquarters and start wagging my tail on a weekly basis so I can hold the title of transit advocate. Sarcasm. Most of us are interested in transit issues precisely because we don’t like the way things are, and apply pressure toward change.

    Doesn’t Damien himself profess to be a transit advocate, just one who happens to oppose nearly every transit project in the city regardless of individual merits of particular projects. He opposed the West Side Extension, not because he thinks it is a bad idea, but because he wants one for his community instead. This fails to grasp the economic reality of subways are expensive to build, and as such any subway project needs to be on the highest traffic corridors possible to get the most ridership for your dollar. Federal matching dollars don’t come flowing for expensive transit projects that don’t hit very high standards for ridership and commute time savings.

    Communities all over America have trains and street cars running at grade, most without the numbers of accidents we have in LA even though some have even less safety precautions. Most of the problem is people walking on tracks, people committing suicide, and vehicles trying to beat the train to save a few seconds. Shouldn’t we be fostering safety education of people living in or commuting through communities with trains rather then focusing attention exclusively on keeping trains from being built. Cars kill and injure far more many people, are far less predictable, and drive everywhere in our communities, not just along fixed routes on regular schedules. We need rail development to provide alternatives to the far more dangerous automobile dependency that exists in this city, and our country.

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