Expo Phase I – Coming June 1, “The Last Battle of Farmdale”

Screen_shot_2010_05_24_at_7.50.22_PM.pngA rendering of what a proposed station near Dorsey High would look like.

To say that the proposed rail crossing for the Expo Line on Farmdale Avenue near Dorsey High School is controversial would be like saying that a few cyclists have issues with the way L.A. designs its streets…it would be a gross understatement. Now, with a hearing date of June 1 set by the California Public Utilities Commission over a plan to build a station at the Farmdale crossing, the Expo Line might finally be facing its last hurdle before Phase I is completed.

The newest plan for the Farmdale was unveiled earlier this month after CPUC refused to allow previous plans for an at-grade crossing. The Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line had been pushing for a below-grade crossing for the intersection, and recent emails show the groups has not given up that dream. Meanwhile proponents of completing the Expo line quickly and within budget seem to recognize the station as a political necessity and some are referring to the June 1 CPUC Hearing as the "Last Battle of Farmdale."

However, for the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line, the new station is not a good idea. Writing for the group, Damien Goodmon points to two "international rail safety experts," Russ Quimby and Najmedin Meshkati who claim that building a station will make the intersection more dangerous than a simple at-grade crossing. The argument in brief: because the intersection is so complicated, even before the rail line is added, adding a station is just going to make the issue more complicated than is needed.

As stated by former MTA light rail operators, their proposal to add a station to the holding pen is even LESS SAFE than the original holding pen because it further complicates an already insanely complicated intersection (YouTube footage of Dorsey HS after school). We are going to continue to fight in the courts and in the streets to demand the same level of safety for Dorsey H.S. students as afforded students in Culver City, but we have an immediate problem that requires 2 minutes of your time RIGHT NOW!

But if June 1 is really the Last Battle of Farmdale, than Goodmon the tactician doesn’t like the battlefield. A June 1 hearing in the Dorsey Library is a bad place for him to rally the troops and is pushing for a change of venue and date.

There are several problems with this date and venue that will challenge the ability of important members of the Dorsey HS and surrounding community from actively participating, including among others: the limited capacity of the library (~100 people), the foreseeable parking challenge (a recital is scheduled in the Dorsey auditorium on the same night), elderly and handicapped access issues (the library is on the 2nd floor), and the potential that the hearing will coincide with Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Scheduling important meetings for a controversial project at times and locations that are unreasonable is a textbook public relations game that is played all too frequently in our part of town.

The first reaction of many people when they hear Goodmon’s complaints is disbelief that the potential scheduling of an NBA Finals game is reason to reschedule a hearing.  However, I’m sure Goodmon remembers back to August of 2008 when Goodmon and I made up 40% of an audience for a "congestion pricing" meeting that occurred the same time Team USA Basketball was playing an Olympic Game.

Regardless of the date of the hearing, if CPUC approves this design, Fix Expo will have only two options left.  Challenge CPUC’s decision in court, or accept the station concept and begin lobbying to get the best crossing that they can.  But trying to divine CPUC’s intentions isn’t as easy as it is with either the Metro or Expo Boards.  The independent body of state commissioners is more isolated from politics than the other Boards that have control of this project so the endorsements of Councilmen, Supervisors and Mayors isn’t as importation as it is in other phases of the project.

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