What the Heck Is Going on with the Expo Bikeway?

Construction underway at Palms Station for Expo Phase II. Photo: Gokhan Esirgen

By now, you’ve probably read the action alert from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or read the article on Biking In L.A. warning that things are not going smoothly for planning of the Expo Bikeway. As you might remember, I serve as a member of the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee (EBAC), and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

First, it’s important to note that despite it’s name, the EBAC does not have a similar structure as the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, a committee formed by the mayor and run under the state’s open public meetings act known as the Brown Act. The agenda is set by the Expo Construction Authority and the meetings are run by agency staff. The presentations are done by Expo Staff. The information is controlled by Expo Staff. At our last meeting, in May, Expo Staff and staff for the City of Santa Monica actually got in an argument over a proposed change to the route at intersection of the bike path and Centinela Boulevard.

I am far from alone on the committee in thinking that EBAC is more about controlling bike advocacy than receiving meaningful input for a safe and useful bike path.

The first step in reclaiming the EBAC came when a group of EBAC members spoke at a recent meeting of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors meeting and asked that staff hold monthly meetings. Following the Board’s direction, a meeting was scheduled for next Tuesday, August 21. Our meetings are open to the public, and LACBC is urging cyclists to attend and make their voices heard. Meeting details are at the end of this article or you can download the agenda, here.

While I won’t be attending, Councilman Rosendahl’s office will be sending a replacement. I’ll be in New York.

If you can’t make the meeting, LACBC provides a draft letter and the addresses for the Expo Construction Authority Board and staff. With design of the rail portion of Expo almost completed and station construction underway, we’re late in the game but there’s no time like the present to start making some noise.

The LACBC also outlines some of the existing problems facing the bikeway. The issue at Centinela illustrates how the EBAC process is broken. From the LACBC blog:

Centinela
There is no station here and the train is elevated in this area but the bike path needs to cross from the south side of the LRT to the north because the train maintenance yard will be on the south side further to the west. This crossover was pretty straightforward until Expo added a driveway to the maintenance yard right where cyclists are expected to cross Centinela, creating safety conflicts between bikes and motor vehicles there. Had Expo gotten timely bikeway design input, they could have adjusted the placement of the bridge supports to provide enough off-road space to route the bikeway on the east side, avoiding the driveway altogether. But this didn’t happen and Expo recently started construction on the bridge supports. Various options appear to exist that could still improve the situation, but additional design and construction work will be needed. Expo is unwilling to pay for changes to improve the situation despite the fact that the problem was caused by their addition of the driveway late in the game.

In this instance, the Construction Authority did get input from the EBAC. A lot of it, actually. Expo BAC members provided at least four different designs and options for the crossing, but eventually staff decided the intersection is safe enough as designed.

At the last meeting of EBAC, members were told any improvements to the intersection would need to come out of the budget for the bikeway even though the new driveway that is causing the problems was not a part of the initial design for the Expo Station. In other words, the new driveway creates a new, unsafe, condition for cyclists but to fix that problem they would need to take away from the bikeway in some other way.

The EBAC process on its own isn’t going to change things.

Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012,
Time: 8:00AM – 9:30AM
Location:  Skanska-Rados Joint Venture Field Office
Address: 11390 W. Olympic Blvd., 3rd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90064

If the front door is locked, you might need to go around to the back of the building.

(Note: I wrote this article based on my notes from public meetings and information that is available elsewhere. I did not publish any information from emails among EBAC members.)