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Koretz Takes Credit for Expo Line, While Spreading Blame for Its Flaws

Missing sidewalk west of Palms Expo Line Station. Photo by Jonathan Weiss

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Missing sidewalk west of Palms Expo Line Station. Photo by Jonathan Weiss
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Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz' website includes photos of the councilmember celebrating the Expo Line’s opening. The site touts Koretz' time on the Expo Construction Authority Board: "Councilmember Koretz served first as an alternate board member and then as a full board member of this body until 2015. He served on this body through the completion of Phase 1 of this project and through most of the construction for Phase 2, much of which travels through Council District 5."

But what Paul Koretz has delivered is the worst section of the Expo Line.

Koretz’ section has a mile-long gap in the bike path. Koretz’ section has kids walking in the street because of a missing sidewalk between the Palms Station and Lycée Français High School. Koretz’ section has an at-grade crossing at Overland Avenue that is worsening gridlock and leading to crashes that prompted neighbors to create a “Stop the Wrecks on Overland” Facebook page.

Koretz takes no responsibility for Expo’s flaws – flaws that were clear when he was a member of the Expo Board. At last night’s Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association meeting, he said “we kind of knew this would be a disaster.” For that, Kortez blames his predecessor. “Unfortunately, my election was kind of being too late to the party. The previous councilmember really was there when all of the negotiations were happening. And … at least regarding the Expo, I don’t think he did enough to protect the community.”

But Councilmember Koretz shouldn’t get off the hook so easily: he could have resisted widening Overland and he could have pushed for grade separation. Indeed, before he took office, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation wrote to Expo opposing the misguided widening – which was designed to dodge Metro’s grade crossing policy that required grade separation based on the per-lane traffic count without widening. Councilmember Koretz could have tried to stop it. He didn’t.

Now, Councilmember Koretz is claiming credit ($300,000 of taxpayer money credit) for reducing wheel squeal noise as the train passes Cheviot Hills. At last night's meeting, Koretz spoke on Expo line “problems” including “an unanticipated screech of the wheels” stating: “We’ve been trying to figure out different ways to address that.…. So, we’ve actually gotten the Expo Board to approve a $300,000 expenditure to bring a huge wheel-grinding machine.”

But the wheel screech/squeal was not "unanticipated." Indeed, the staff report [PDF] on the wheel-grinding motion says, “The FEIR indicated that wheel squeal was possible in specific curves along the alignment based on the curvature of the rail alignment. …. Rail grinding has been identified as a method to correct these track gauge variations in order to mitigate the wheel squeal.”

Expo's Council District 5 flaws will cost millions to fix. If Paul Koretz wants credit for the good, he must take responsibility for the bad.

Jonathan Weiss practices law, lives in Cheviot Hills, and served as an appointed representative to the L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee between 2009 and 2016. He is also a boardmember of Streetsblog L.A.’s parent nonprofit, the California Streets Initiative.

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