All objective observations of the design of the Expo Line in the majority-minority South LA segment reveal countless issues that need to be addressed. Primarily:
The street-level crossings are guaranteed to result in deaths to motorists & pedestrians, in particular at the many crossings without crossing gates (Crenshaw, Western, Normandie and Vermont). It is the least safe form of light rail transit and most of the safety mitigation measures currently proposed have already been implemented on the Blue Line, yet accidents still frequently occur today – over 17 years of attempting to improve the safety of the line, which is the deadliest light rail line in America.
Nearly two dozen schools, many parks, and 20,000 – 30,000 youths are within walking distance of the Expo Line tracks and are a grave concern. The LAUSD and Parent Collaborative have made formal objections to the unsafe design of the line. Of particular worry are 2100-student Dorsey High School at Farmdale and Exposition and 3800-student Foshay Learning Center at Western and Exposition. The overall environments are currently unsafe with sidewalks and crosswalks that are too narrow to handle existing foot traffic. Adding a frequently running train to the environment and further complicating intersections will only increase the risk to the children.
Similarly, at Crenshaw Blvd the train will travel directly adjacent to a mega church (West Angeles Church). Crenshaw, like Vermont, Normandie and Western (where Foshay is located), has no crossing gates at the intersection. The compilation of these added risk factors should have resulted in underpasses or overpasses (known as “grade separations”) at the locations but did not. A deadly calculation has been made to not invest in grade separations in South LA and instead jeopardize the lives of South LA residents.
- Traffic Congestion & Cutting-Off Access to Emergency Services
But even the crossing gates in South LA are problematic. Traffic on our already clogged streets will increase. At 7th Ave & Exposition, the location of Fire Station 34 which serves the Leimert Park community, the crossing gates will shut off emergency service access up to 38% of the time during peak hours to a community with high health risk populations: elderly & African-American.
- Environmental Impact of Noise & Vibration
The Expo Line places a very high environmental impact on South LA residential communities, school learning grounds & places of worship. With trains running at a frequency of 4-5 minutes each way, trains can be expected to cross an intersection every 2 – 2 ½ minutes during rush hour. When trains cross any street at-grade they are required to blow their horns or ring it’s bell while approaching the intersection & through the intersection.
- Environmental Justice
Being aware of the adverse safety, traffic and other environmental impacts of street-level crossings, the City of Culver City passed resolutions opposing MTA’s proposed street level crossings in their boundaries in the mid-90s and early 2000s. When MTA’s final plan had all street-level crossings Culver City, the city threatened to legally and political oppose the project. After much negotiation, MTA bowed to Culver City’s pressures resulting in an Expo Line Phase 1 design that has grade separations in Culver City at crossings with less traffic than South LA streets, and where more money is being spent in the one mile between La Cienega and Robertson, than in the entire 4.5 miles in South LA from Vermont to Clyde (one block east of La Cienega). The end project places none of the adverse impacts or safety risks west of La Cienega, and all of them in majority-minority and/or poor communities. MTA is spending $185 million for the 1 mile west of La Cienega and only $140 million for the 4.5 miles in South LA. This is not only morally reprehensible, but it is clearly prohibited by federal law.
- Long-Term Investment
In addition to jeopardizing the safety and quality of life of the South LA community, the MTA is not making a good investment of our tax dollars. With an underground segment through South LA the annual operating cost of the Expo Line would be lower. It would also result in reduced travel times, far more riders and increased capacity for Expo Line branches to places like LAX and UCLA.
We believe MTA can and should exercise the consecutive operable segment construction option in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and begin building the Expo Line underground in the South LA community as far as the existing Phase 1 budget will allow them, while our representatives work together to find the money to complete the project to Culver City.
We believe they can and should go after new public financing sources like recently passed Prop 1B, of which billions are dedicated specifically to capital rail projects and grade separations, and identify more funding from our annual local and federal budgets.
UPDATE: In fact, the MTA has added $222 million dollars to the project, $218 million of which was from the Prop 1B source we’ve been requesting they go after for additional grade separations in South LA.
Over the next few weeks we will begin to delve in the details regarding our concerns and the merits of our proposal. But ultimately, our ability to FIX EXPO will be greatly improved with your help. So please help us by SIGNING THE PETITION and/or business/community group endorsement, which are available to the right.
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