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Posts from the Expo Construction Authority Category

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Expo Is Coming, Santa Monica! But When Will It Get Here?

Construction on Expo's 4th Street station in Downtown Santa Monica is moving along at a health clip (photo from the City of Santa Monica)

Construction on Expo’s 4th Street station in Downtown Santa Monica is moving along at a health clip (photo from the City of Santa Monica)

Expo Phase II completes the long-anticipated rail connection between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Santa Monica. Construction on Phase II began in 2011. Currently, the Expo line ends in Culver City. When the new 6.6-mile extension opens next year, it will be possible to take the train from the beach to Downtown Los Angeles for the first time in half-a-century.

Expo Line Phase II

Where: The Expo Line currently runs from 7th Street and Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles, past USC, Exposition Park, and the Coliseum. It continues past Baldwin Hills and currently terminates in Culver City. Phase II will bring the line through Palms before cutting north of the 10 Freeway. Other Phase II stops will include Westwood Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard, and Bundy Drive. Then, it crosses into Santa Monica, stopping at 26th Street (Bergamot Station), 17th Street (Santa Monica College, UCLA Hospital), and finally, 4th Street in Downtown Santa Monica.

When: Though Expo Phase II construction is nearing completion, a solid opening date remains elusive. According to Metro, as of March 19, design is 99 percent complete and mainline construction 84.6 percent complete. Metro is juggling two new light rail line extensions, Expo II and the Gold Line’s Foothill extension, both anticipated to open in early-to-mid 2016.

According to this week’s Metro budget staff report, the agency will begin service on both new lines in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2016, between April and June of 2016.

Construction at the Bergamot Station stop at 26th Street earlier this month.

Construction at the Bergamot Station stop at 26th Street earlier this month.

If you have been to any of the new stops recently, you will see that construction sure looks like it is nearly complete. In fact, Metro anticipates that it will be able to start safety testing in April starting in Palms. Even though we may end up seeing trains running this summer, there will still be at least six months of testing after the Expo Construction Authority completes its work.

Issues: The two main issues facing Expo at the moment are a delay at the maintenance facility and a potential shortage of trains, which could result in longer headways when the line first opens.

The maintenance facility, being built in the eastern edge of Santa Monica, is behind schedule, according to Metro. The “substantial completion date” for the facility has slipped from May 2015 to October 2015.

According to another Metro staff report this week, the agency anticipates a “temporary shortage of light rail vehicles.” The shortage has been attributed to a labor dispute at Kinkisharyo, the company that supplies trains for Metro (Note: As noted in the comments, the shortage isn’t a result of the labor dispute, but rather Metro changing suppliers).  Given the shortage, Metro expects some longer-than-usual headways when Expo Phase II first opens. Metro expects to initially operate Expo will operate between Santa Monica and L.A. every 12 minutes in the morning and afternoon.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Dangerous Expo Bikeway Intersection Now Fixed

As cyclists eagerly await completion of the Expo Bikeway from Culver City to Santa Monica, some fixes are ongoing to the maligned-but-improving Phase I bike path.

All images:  Jon Weiss

LADOT has improved safety markings where the Expo bikeway crosses the railroad tracks, at the intersection of Exposition Blvd., Gramercy Pl., and Rodeo Rd. All images: Jonathan Weiss

Via Jonathan Weiss, a member of the city’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee, comes some pictures of an improved section of the Expo Phase I bike route at the dangerous intersection of Exposition Boulevard, Gramercy Place and Rodeo Road.

In 2012, before the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee was even formed, L.A.’s Bicycle Advisory Committee noted major safety issues where the  Expo bikeway crosses the railroad tracks at the intersection of Exposition Boulevard, Gramercy Place, and Rodeo Road. Expo’s Phase 1 included signals and bicycle markings that were confusing to motorists and cyclists. The Bicycle Advisory Committee warned that it was only a matter of time until there was a tragic crash.

The Advisory Committee, pushed the City Council and Expo Construction Authority to make changes to the intersection. The city council passed a resolution, the LADOT got to work and two years later the intersection was improved. The new intersection includes clearly marked places for bicycles to wait for the signal, better signage, and, yes, bright green paint.

Weiss asked that we credit LADOT Bikeways, and the offices of Councilmember Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti for their work on this project.

The Expo/Grammercy/Rodeo intersection has new markings, some green paint and better signage. For more images from Jon Weiss’ cell phone. click on after the jump.

Read more…

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Koretz Pushes Expo for a Little Collaboration on the Expo Greenway

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Tomorrow, the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors will hear a motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz requiring “the CEO and staff to work collaboratively with the City of Los Angeles to ensure that the landscaping of the two projects (the Expo Greenway and the landscaping for the Expo Line) compliment each other…”

The Expo Greenway project would transform the area between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue adjacent to the future bikeway and rail project into a sustainable urban greenway that would provide a corridor of native species, a stretch of open space, and a place where rainwater is sustainably moved back to the ground. Original plans called for a large parking lot in the area now slated for a greenway and botanical garden.

For those following the progress of the Expo Greenway for the past six years, this might seem a ho-hum motion. But for those working on the project, it’s big news. For the first time, Expo staff will be compelled to truly work with the City of Los Angeles on this project. While the two projects are still separate, coordination between the City and Expo hasn’t always been smooth. Advocates for the fully-funded bicycle path and other projects have long-complained that staff seems concerned with building a railroad and nothing else.

Koretz’s motion makes it clear that the Greenway is a part of the greater Expo vision, even if it’s not officially part of the Expo Line.

“Our office wants to make sure there is a seamless transition between the two projects,” says Jay Greenstein, the transportation deputy for Paul Koretz. “One day in the future people will visit these projects when they’re completed. Other than the sound wall, we don’t want them to be able to tell the difference between the Los Angeles project and the Expo Line project.”

Jonathan Weiss, a Cheviot Hills resident and long-time advocate for Expo rail and bicycle projects, is considered by many the driving force behind the Greenway.

“Expo was envisioned as multimodal green corridor promoting sustainability of natural resources;  it adapted for the 21st Century a 1930s plan to use parkways to connect recreational open spaces to the beaches.  Paul Koretz motion seeks to create the context for that to happen,”writes Weiss, who represents Koretz on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We will now have a multi-benefit greenway to provide urban runoff treatment, a simulated stream, green space, native landscaping, a tree-lined vegetative buffer, a bikeway, access to public transit, and educational and recreational opportunities.” Read more…

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Op/Ed: Will Metro’s Turnstile Fetishism Damage the Expo Bikeway?

Anyone who reads my tweets as well as my posts and comments on this blog and elsewhere knows I am hardly a fan of the Los Angeles Metro’s Board of Directors decision to install turnstiles at its unmanned rail stations.  Needless to say, I pay attention to any developments on the issue, and while Damien might not have noticed this report on this week’s Metro Board of Directors’ Committee Meetings, I did.  Even if you don’t care one way or the other about the turnstiles, if you are interested in complete streets, you may want to pay ongoing attention to this.

Because this fetishism may end up ruining a newly created bikeway for cyclists in Los Angeles and Culver City.

In response to a request made in July last year by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and joined City of Santa Monica Councilmember (and current Mayor) Pam O’Connor and City of Glendale Council Member Ara Najarian, all three of whom currently sit on the Metro Board of Directors, Metro staff was directed on July 25, 2013  to come up with a report describing the feasibility of installing turnstiles and fare gates at all stations including those stations on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) network (Blue, Gold and Expo Lines)* which being by definition “Light”, had not been designed to accommodate fare-collection barriers.

This was done using the presumption, quoted from the Motion by Yaroslavsky, O’Connor and Najarian, (See Page 12) that:

As we’ve seen since we implemented gate latching in late June, the system is working smoothly and without incident.  Moreover, revenues are up and we are now able to obtain true ridership numbers, where people are going, and where people are coming from, etc.

That is an interesting presumption since the initial latching of turnstiles had only happened some 34 days prior, the entire Subway or “Heavy Rail” System (Red and Purple Lines) was not latched until eleven days later on  August 5th, 2013 and no conclusive data about revenues or ridership was yet available.

But since “the Emperor has a fine set of new clothes” and apparently we must order more to “take this issue head on”, so the report discussing the work that will have to be done to add turnstiles and at least one Americans with Disabilities (ADA)-compliant faregate plus the alarmed (?) emergency exits to every station and related fencing has been produced. (Each must be 60% accessible which means if the station has two entrances, then both must have the ADA-faregate).

Cycle-users will please take note the number of times the words “Lane Takes” and “incur” or “intrude” or “encroach” plus “lane” appears in the report.   (The “Find” tool found under the “Edit” menu on Acrobat Reader can be used for this purpose). Read more…

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Eyes off the Street: Expo Tracks in Northvale Trench

Photo: Jonathan Weiss

Photo: Jonathan Weiss

On Tuesday, Jonathan Weiss snapped this picture of the Expo Line tracks being placed in the Northvale Road trench. The trench runs along the southern end of Cheviot Hills and the track’s arrival is considered a construction mile stone by rail fans.

For comparison’s sake, check out this picture by Carter Rubin of the trench before Expo construction began.

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A Photo Essay of a Tour of Expo Phase II

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

When Stephen Villavaso, known to many Streetsblog readers as the volunteer traffic engineer who makes CicLAvia possible, asked me if I would like to ride along on a tour of Expo Phase II construction, I jumped at the chance. Villavaso is also one of the engineers working for Skanska-Rados Joint Venture – the design-build contractor of the Expo Line Phase II. Villavaso manages the design for the construction project which involves regularly driving up and down the future light rail and bike path talking to workers, monitoring construction, and just keeping abreast of everything that’s happening on site.

For those just joining us, the Expo Line is a 15.2 mile, $2.4 billion Exposition Light Rail Line that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Culver City. Construction on Phase I of the line, from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, began in 2006 and opened to the public in 2012. Phase II of the project, which will extend the line out to Santa Monica, is now underway. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015 with revenue operations beginning the following year. The Expo Line is and will be run by Metro.

While I’ve been covering the Expo Line since before Streetbslog launched in 2008, it seems there is always something new to learn about it. On this day, I learned something that should seem obvious…building a light rail line is hard. I mean really hard.

I unexpectedly ended up discussing how to move power lines, how to protect existing underground utilities, how many different types of concrete are needed, how to protect workers during excavation, that maybe some federal safety requirements are a little over board, and a lot of other things.

But the good news is that progress is definitely happening. Even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

Where the Expo Line runs under an existing bridge just west of Motor Avenue, Villavaso explained that the last time he was there, a large trench was in the ground. This time, the trench had been filled and there was no sign that a lot of work had happened in the area.  “This is really exciting,” he said gesturing to what now appeared to be just a dirt road. The last time he had done one of these tours was about a month and a half earlier, when he had been accompanied by Nat Gale from the Mayor’s Office.

We made six stops on our tour, starting at the Cloverfield/Olympic Bridge, going back to the start of Phase II at Venice Blvd., and stops at Palms and Motor before heading back into Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we stopped at the Bundy/Centinela Station and the terminus (or beginning pending your point of view) at Downtown Santa Monica.

Our thanks to Stephen Villavaso for leading me around and answering my questions. My wife, who is also an engineer, was laughing at me while I was listening to the audio to write this story, so it must have taken some real self-control for Stephen to keep a straight face.

A full essay, with more of photographs from the project sites, is available after the jump. Read more…

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And Now the Reason Foundation Is Completely Wrong About Expo

Good news for everyone that doesn't do transit writing for a certain oil industry funded think tank. Image via The Source.

I wonder what it is about the Expo Line that makes conservative muckrakers lose their collective minds?

Earlier this week, Fox and Hounds published an op/ed by Los Angeles Business Journal Editor Charles Crumpley’s attack on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by telling an imaginary story about job loss because of a CEQA lawsuit against Phase II of the Expo Line. There was no job loss as a result of the lawsuit.

But that’s not the biggest whopper that’s been told about Expo. Last year, the Reason Foundation, an oil industry funded think tank that pretends to espouse Libertarian principles, declared the Expo Line a failure after sending two people to ride Phase I of the light rail line on its opening week and complaining that it wasn’t meeting its ridership projections for 2020. The line averaged 11,000 weekday boardings. Expo’s 2020 projections was 27,000.

After just about anyone that has ever examined a transit project laughed at Reason’s surreally lame attempt to examine ridership; the Foundation fired back a couple of weeks later with a whiny post that Expo still wasn’t meeting its 2020 ridership projections in its second month.

If major politicians and news outlets didn’t treat the Reason Foundation’s findings as though they were fact, we could all just laugh at them and walk away. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Fortunately, it’s really easy to show the Reason Foundation is completely and utterly inept when it comes to examining transit projects.

Yesterday, Metro announced that the Expo Line averaged 27,280 boardings every weekday, meeting its 2020 ridership projections a mere seven years ahead of schedule. Read more…

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NFSR Is Not Done with the Supreme Court Yet

Neighbors for Smart Rail, the group of homeowners that has fought the Expo Line running through their community, isn’t quite done yet. Despite Streetsblog’s proclamation after the California Public Utilities Commission gave the Expo Line the green light that the appeals were over, NFSR is now appealing the Supreme Court ruling.

The initial Supreme Court ruling was that while the Expo Construction Authority should have used current traffic conditions as the baseline for their traffic study in their environmental support documents, that the error was not so grave as to force a new EIR. In fact, several lower courts upheld Expo’s environmental documents and some of the Supreme Court justices felt that the document was just fine, future traffic study and all.

While it’s a long-shot, NFSR feels that the ruling has enough holes in it that the Supreme Court could change its mind if they can prove that the court accidentally mis-stated the law in its conclusion.

For those not familiar with the Supreme Court appeals process, it goes like this. Read more…

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Breaking: CPUC Clears Expo Phase II, No Administrative of Legal Hurdles Remain for Light Rail Line

Earlier this morning, the California Public Utilities Commission gave Phase II of the Expo Line the green light to finish construction. With the California Supreme Court also ruling in Expo’s favor on August 5, both the legal and procedural roadblocks to Expo have been resolved in less than two weeks.

Expo Phase II is a 6.6 mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. When completed, the Expo Line will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica via Downtown Culver City, a cool 15.3 mile light rail line.

The above video shows CPUC President Michael Peevey praising the Expo Construction Authority and the Expo Line after CPUC approved the line. h/t Gökhan Esirgen.

“I’m absolutely stoked that we now have a green light to finish this project,” writes Mike Bonin, a westside City Council Member who is also vice-chair of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors. “Like many other mass transit users in L.A., I am looking forward to being able to choose either bus or rail as I commute from the Westside, all of the way to downtown.  We are nearing the 50% complete phase of the project and we are on schedule and within the budget. It’s great that we are getting more options to Go Metro!”

CPUC originally gave Expo the green light in November of last year. Neighbors for Smart Rail, a coalition of Westside home owner and community groups. asked for a second review arguing that CPUC didn’t follow its own rules set out by policy and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that the Expo Construction Authority failed to study every intersection of the rail line.

“We appreciate the CPUC’s diligence in reviewing the crossings for the Expo Line. Today’s decision allows us to remain focused on completing the Expo Line in 2015 and bringing a new transit option to Los Angeles,” said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe.

Streetsblog has reached out to NFSR and supporters of the Expo Line for comment. We will update the story as the day if we hear anything.

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Breaking: In Split Decision, California Supreme Court Gives Expo the O.K.

California Supreme Court on NFSR v Expo

It’s official, Neighbors for Smart Rail is out of legal options. Earlier this morning, the California Supreme Court upheld rulings by every other court that has looked at the case and ruled that the Expo Construction Authority and Metro did not intentionally violate California environmental laws when creating the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line.

“We are gratified that the California Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court rulings. Today’s decision is a win for taxpayers and the future riders who will soon benefit from a direct connection between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica,” said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe. “We remain focused on finishing the Expo Line on-time and on-budget in 2015.”

The ruling is doubtless a frustrating one for NFSR. The Supreme Court agreed with their contention that the Expo Construction Authority should have used baseline traffic conditions, not projected future conditions, in its traffic study. However, it also ruled that there was “no prejudice” in the decision to use future conditions and the study provided enough information for the proposed rail line’s environmental documents to be approved.

Although we conclude the EIR fails to satisfy CEQA‟s requirements in the first respect claimed, we also conclude the agency‟s abuse of discretion was nonprejudicial. Under the particular facts of this case, the agency‟s examination of certain environmental impacts only on projected year 2030 conditions, and not on existing environmental conditions, did not deprive the agency or the public of substantial relevant information on those impacts. (Environmental Protection Information Center v. California Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection (2008) 44 Cal.4th 459, 485-486.) We will therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the superior court‟s denial of Neighbors‟s petition for writ of mandate.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Read more…