Expo Line Construction Authority responds to lawsuit

As expected and as was widely reported yesterday, the group Neighbors for Smart Rail has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the second phase of the Expo Line, which will run from Culver City to Santa Monica. The project, which was part of the Measure R package approved by voters, is scheduled to open in 2015.

Streetsblog Los Angeles has posted a copy of the lawsuit. The gist of it is that the group alleges that the final environmental impact study of the 6.6-mile line — which was adopted by the Expo Line Construction Authority Board of Directors last month — was flawed and that the train’s impacts were not adequately studied. The group has been particularly opposed to the train crossing three streets at gravel level — Overland, Westwood and Sepulveda.

Here is the response from the Expo Line Construction Authority:

Expo Authority Statement Regarding Litigation

The February 4, 2010 approval of the Phase 2 extension of the Expo Light Rail Line from Culver
City to Santa Monica culminated decades of planning, including extensive  environmental studies, to
provide modern transit service connecting the Westside with Downtown L.A.

Given the long and careful planning history, and the urgent need for traffic relief, we are extremely disappointed that a small faction of the community seeks to delay the extension of a project that has the overwhelming support of the communities on the Westside.

The Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (Expo Authority) is confident that the Phase 2
project complies fully with the California Environmental Quality Act and the Authority intends to defend the project vigorously. The Authority conducted many large-scale community meetings and well over one hundred additional key stakeholder briefings to discuss the alternatives that were studied and to obtain feedback from the public. The selected project alternative reflects the consensus of the communities served by the project and incorporates the highest standards for design, public safety and environmental protection.
In February, the Expo Authority certified the project’s Phase 2 Final Environmental Impact Report
(FEIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act and approved the preferred alternative alignment extending the Phase 1 project from Culver City to Santa Monica.  At their March meeting, the Authority Board also authorized the CEO to negotiate and award contracts for preliminary engineering work, which will commence as soon as negotiations are complete.

Communities on the Westside of Los Angeles are among the most traffic-congested in the nation
and have long been underserved when it comes to options for public transportation.  We look forward to starting preliminary engineering work which will be the first milestone in bringing increased mobility and enhancing the quality of life for thousands of commuters throughout the Southland.

As part of the lawsuit, and as is typical of such suits, Neighbors for Smart Rail has asked for an injunction to halt construction. Of course, how any of this plays out in court remains to be seen. It should be noted that Metro is named as a defendant in the suit.