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Officials say existing right-of-way best serves Expo Line to Santa Monica

January 28, 2009 | 12:00 pm

For years now, the big question surrounding the Expo Line light rail project has been this: What's the best route for the train to take from Culver City to Santa Monica? Is it the existing right-of-way through West L.A.? Or perhaps a route using Venice and Sepulveda boulevards?

Although there's still no definitive answer, transit officials today edged closer to one when they released a draft environmental impact report for the second phase of the Expo Line light rail from Culver City to Santa Monica.

By their estimation, the existing right-of-way performs best by several measures -- including ridership and cost. Expo Line Construction Authority officials have, in fact, been saying this for months, but now their arguments have been set down in the environmental report. That said, officials still haven't declared which route they want to build -- they're going to wait until the public has a chance to offer feedback on the report before making that announcement, likely in the next few months.

The choice of the existing right-of-way will be controversial for several good reasons. Officials want the tracks to cross several busy north-south streets -- including Overland, Westwood, Military and Sepulveda -- at street level. Some residents of the area fear that's not a good idea for safety and traffic reasons, pointing out that if traffic is presently stinky at Pico and Sepulveda without a train, it's bound to get worse if crossing gates are continually going up and down at rush hour.

The Expo Line Construction Authority says there are no impacts that can't be mitigated. Its plans, for now, involve widening some of the streets so that traffic doesn't back up as far when the gates are down. Some homeowner groups, meanwhile, are threatening to sue if the train doesn't go underground through the area.

Here's a link to the draft environmental report. Within the report, here's a link to a good map showing the route alternatives -- it's on page 11.

--Steve Hymon