Ridley-Thomas: Expo Line Dooms South L.A. to Second Class Status

2_25_10_expo_line_usc.jpgPhoto of Expo construction at USC via Treehugger.com

If the rumblings out of Cheviot Hills of a potential lawsuit weren't enough proof that the battle over the Expo Line hasn't been settled by approval of the environmental documents at this month's Expo Board Meeting; an editorial by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, that slams the construction plans for at-grade crossings in South L.A. and into the Westside has been appearing in some local papers and the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Sounding more like Damien Goodmon than his predecessor, Expo-backer Yvonne Burke,  Ridley-Thomas writes that the construction of at-grade light rail will doom South L.A. to be an underdeveloped urban area for generations:

It’s a vicious cycle: Once an at-grade train is put into an at-risk neighborhood, the area is unlikely to ever develop the density and vehicle traffic required to meet the grade-separated crossing standard.

Some argue an at-grade crossing can be built as a first-step, to be followed by an elevated or underground crossing in the future, when an area has developed. But the at-grade crossing is itself a barrier to development and neighborhood improvement.

In other words, the current Grade Crossing Policy discriminates against underdeveloped neighborhoods, denying them opportunities to enjoy the same economic prospects as areas that have already been substantially developed.

Ridley-Thomas sits on both the Metro Board and the Expo Construction Authority Board, so his crusade to change Metro's policy when it comes to grade-crossing at intersections has some teeth.  With the California Public Utilities Commission still not having approved the plans for two crossings, changes to the grade-crossing policy could have an impact on the design of Expo Stations and major intersection crossings in both phases. 

Some Expo advocates worry that any design changes would delay the opening of the line. But if you read the editorial in its entirety, it doesn't sound as though Ridley-Thomas thinks a delay of the opening would be such a bad thing.