Progress on the Expo Line — a rail line that will run down Exposition Boulevard and around the USC campus — continues to chug along, but recent developments may cause traffic congestion in some areas and unrest among citizens in others.
The final version of the project’s Environmental Impact Report was recently released, outlining the possible impacts of extending passenger train service throughout the area. The report noted several overpasses that residents desired near schools could not be built, leaving many residents upset.
The rail line will pass near Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center, where at-level street crossing will be built as opposed to aerial overpasses. Concerns have been and continue to be raised about the safety of the crossings, especially in areas with high numbers of children.
“Our basic objection is that the line is being built at street level, and that’s a danger,” said Damien Goodmon, coordinator of the Fix Expo Rail Campaign.
Expo Line project officials and MTA policies, however, said the street and pedestrian crossings are safe and will not be congested.
Beyond safety concerns, the project has faced budgeting and scheduling hurdles from its inception.
“This region needs rail transit,” Goodmon said. “But it does not need it built cheaply and inadequately.”
But Gabriela Collins of the Expo Line project said many of the concerns have arisen from project enhancements that were not part of the original plan. She said the main goal is simply to finish the project.
“We’ve been responsive to concerns,” Collins said. “Our focus is to work to complete construction in a timely fashion and provide an alternative to the 10 freeway, which is highly congested.”
The issues with scheduling — the project was originally set to be finished earlier than is now planned — have been brought to California Public Utilities Commissioner Timothy Simon, who said in an open letter that expediting the project is a major concern.
“You can be assured that I am fully aware of the legitimate public need for a speedy resolution,” Simon wrote. “In this regard, I have asked all of our staff to expedite this process. I consider this of the highest priority.”
The project is currently in Phase 2, which encompasses certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report and outlines an extension and certification of the rail line from Culver City to Santa Monica.
The heavy construction that can be seen around USC is part of the first phase of the Expo Line project, which consists of building the Expo Line from Culver City to Downtown Los Angeles and includes building stations alongside USC on Flower Street at 23rd Street and Jefferson Boulevard and on Exposition at USC and Expo Park.
The rail will go underground just past Jefferson at Figueroa Street and Exposition, Collins said. Now, stations are being built at Jefferson and Hoover Street as well as on Vermont Avenue and Exposition.
Though there is no specific timeline for the construction, Collins said most of it should be completed over the course of the next year.
The rail line will run parallel to the Santa Monica Freeway, one of Los Angeles’ most congested freeways. Other stations will include Vermont, Western, Crenshaw, La Brea and La Cienega, some of the busiest streets in L.A.
Once complete, the rail will allow USC students and others easier access to all areas of Los Angeles.
“The fact that those stations are being built will provide people with easier access to the Galen Center, the Coliseum, the science center and museums without having to look or pay for parking,” Collins said.
According to the Expo Rail Line website, the rail from Culver City to Downtown L.A. via USC will be running by 2012, while the project as a whole is scheduled for completion by 2016.