Good News for Bikes in Expo Phase II

LADOT Environmental Documents for Expo Phase II Bikeway

What a difference a few weeks make.

Before the Thanksgiving break, Streetsblog reported on how many Westside bicyclists were concerned about bike planning for Phase II of the Expo Line.  While planning for the second phase of the light rail portion of the Expo Light Rail project is nearly 60% complete, the bicycle planning hasn’t really begun.   One of the main reasons for the delay is that Caltrans had not certified environmental documents needed before the bike planning could begin.  To make matters worse, the Culver City Bicycle Coalition complained that a planned bike-transit center for the Culver City station seemed to be dropped from the plans.

But much of that has changed.  Caltrans has granted the Categorical Exclusion (CE) needed for bikeay construction to begin, a prerequisite for the Expo Construction Authority to begin planning the bikeway.  The Authority also announced that it will soon create a long-promised bicycle advisory committee to help with the bicycle plans for Phase II.

To top it all off, a bike parking plan for the Culver City Station was presented, although advocates want to see a greater commitment to bring a bike-transit facility to Culver City.

“Both the City of Los Angeles and City of Santa Monica have obtained environmental clearance for the bikeway project,” begins Gabriela Collins, spokesperson for the Expo Construction Authority.  ”Once the funding from both cities comes through, Expo plans to contract the bikeway design and construction to Skanska Rados, a Joint Venture, the current design-build contractor for the guideway.  The Bicycle Advisory Committee will be brought to the Expo Board for approval at that time.”

While many bike advocates cheered the news that the CE has been finalized, there are still some lingering concerns that the Expo Construction Authority wasted time waiting for environmental clearances for bikeways while the rail project planning moved forward.

Will this design ever become reality?

“The bikeway was inevitable, so it is unfortunate that preliminary engineering of the bikeway was not done at the same time,” says Jonathan Weiss, a member of the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee.  ”How many bikeway options have been foreclosed because of this avoidable delay?  Thankfully, the City of L.A. has ramped up its support and unstuck the bikeway design.”

Federal funding for the bikeway project has already been guaranteed, so it would seem that the bikeway project could finally be moving forward.  However, there’s still one more hurdle that could be placed in front of the Bikeway.  There’s no guarantee that the group of homeowners that have sued to stall the bike project thus far could bring suit against the new CE as well.

Meanwhile in Culver City, a small campaign to urge the Construction Authority to bring a bike plan to the Culver City Expo stop has met with success.

The Culver City station will have 10 bike racks and 8 bike lockers available to the public when the station opens in early 2012,” explains Collins. “The Clean Mobility Center (CMC) was deferred because its location conflicted with the construction staging area for the Venice Boulevard Bridge, which is being built as part of Phase 2.  However, the necessary provisions were made at the station site for the addition of the CMC in the future. “

Jim Shanman with the Culver City Bicycle Coalition wrote a letter to supporters after the last meeting of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors noting that staff said that, “the CMC could conceivably begin (construction) as soon as the bridge is far enough along that the area in question won’t be affected by the construction, maybe as soon as 12 months.”

It may not have happened as quickly as some would want, but bikeway planning is finally underway for Expo Phase II in the City of Los Angeles.  Whether it’s in time to create the bike infrastructure cyclists want and deserve remains to be seen.