The once and future rail

Phase 2 of the Expo Line broke ground in Santa Monica on Monday, Sept. 12. Elected officials and project developers were on hand at the future site of the 4th/Colorado station.

The finished Expo Line will connect Santa Monica to the 7th/Metro station in Downtown Los Angeles via Culver City.

Both phases of the Expo Line have been through lengthy planning stages.

To serve the highly congested area, Metro chose an ostensibly elegant and cost-effective solution: run the trains on the right-of-way, a strip of land with railroad tracks that it already owns.

Many residents of the areas, in which the construction would be taking place, were opposed to the Expo Line running through their community.

“This was a project where residents required very timely and accurate information,” said Gabriela Collins, Community Relations Manager for Exposition Construction Authority. “We’ve had over 9,000 comments submitted on the draft environmental impact report. The file is over 15,000 pages long; that in itself shows the extent of our outreach and how much people are involved in the planning process.”

A lot of the residents’ concerns had to do with noise pollution, although it should be noted that the Expo Line will be more akin to the Gold Line in Pasadena than the Blue Line or the Green Line.

The Gold Line is currently one of the quietest and safest rail lines in the world.

The hotly contested right-of-way already lies in a trench, where six feet of soil banking the tracks readily absorb the noise.

The environmental impact report showed that the noise will be primarily generated by the signals on railroad crossings, which were put in place to protect residents.

After a string of lawsuits, Metro made at least $5.3 million worth of corrections to the project.

As a result, there will be no car parking at the Westwood/Expo station. However, the station will still house bicycle lockers.

Phase 1 of the Expo Line has been facing numerous delays since it began construction in the fall of 2006. Originally projected to open this year, it has been pushed back to fall of this year, then winter, and now to spring of 2012.

The Culver City Bus agency plans to increase service on Lines 2 and 4 to a 30-minute headway, in order to better cover the new La Cienega station.

Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus is likewise considering service changes. Among the most prominent of these are plans to turn line 12 to a limited-stop, "Rapid" format.

Projected to complete construction in 2015, Phase 2 of the Expo Line will continue further west along the Exposition Corridor. Exposition Corridor is right-of-way that used to house a line of the old Pacific Electric Railway, a mass transit system that served Southern California from 1901 to 1961.

This section of the Expo Line would finally provide a direct route from Downtown L.A. to the Pacific Ocean.