Construction set to begin on Expo Line Phase II to Santa Monica

Signaling hope that rail mass transit may one day soon travel west of the 405 freeway, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held Monday morning in Santa Monica for the second phase of the Expo Line light rail project.

The 6.6-mile second phase, with a budget of about $1.5 billion, will connect Culver City and Santa Monica, mostly via the old rail right-of-way that runs along Exposition Boulevard. The budget includes several significant bridges for the train over busy streets, including Sepulveda Boulevard, as well as a maintenance yard and new rail cars.

“This is one of the most traffic impacted areas in Southern California,” said County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who also serves on the Metro Board of Directors. “People get stuck getting into this job-rich area every morning and they get stuck stuck trying to leave in the afternoon. This project will give people…an alternative to getting stuck.

“It won’t solve the traffic problems of the Westside but it will give people an alternative to sitting in traffic,” Yaroslavsky added.

The first phase of the Expo Line from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City is nearing completion, and train and track testing has been underway since spring. No formal date for the opening of that line has been set but Expo Line Construction Authority officials recently told the Los Angeles Times that it may not happen until early 2012. Metro, which will operate the line, has final say on the opening date.

The second phase of the Expo Line between downtown L.A. and downtown Santa Monica is expected to open in 2015. The path of the entire Expo Line route roughly parallels the Santa Monica Freeway, which in recent years has become notable for a notorious westbound commute in the mornings and an equally loathsome eastbound trip in the afternoon.

One big problem is the tremendous number of jobs that have been created in Santa Monica and the Westside over the past 20 years. Housing — at least the kind affordable to many people — has remained in short supply, forcing many people to commute to the Westside, which has no rail transit of any kind.

Santa Monica officials have revamped city plans in the past few years to attempt to finally add some density and housing to major corridors. The city is well known for its strict rent control laws and adversity to density of any sort.

The second phase of the Expo Line will feature seven stations. The Expo/Westwood station will be a short walk from the Westside Pavilion, the Olympic/26th station will be adjacent to the Water Garden office complex and Bergamot Station arts center and the terminus at Colorado and 4th in Santa Monica is near the Third Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier and the beach, among a few notable destinations.

The second phase of the Expo Line — unlike the first — is funded mostly by the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. Two other Measure R transit projects are already under construction: the Orange Line busway extension to Chatsworth is scheduled to open in 2012 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension between Pasadena and Azusa is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is the chair of the Metro Board, said that he will continue to work on persuading Congress to adopt his America Fast Forward plan as the law of the land. If so, that would expand federal financing for transit plans so that Metro could speed up construction of Measure R transit and road projects.

The environmental documents for three other Measure R projects — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector — are likely to be completed and approved by the Metro Board of Directors over the next few months.

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8 replies

    • Hi Nick;

      Actually, the Expo Line will run under the freeway in an existing underpass built for the old rail right-of-way. If you’re traveling westbound on the 10, it’s kind of hard to see — but it’s right before the Overland exit, with the tracks coming out from freeway at northwest angle in a trench.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

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  1. Great, one step closer to bringing true transit to west LA. Also, im glad there will be a sepulveda overpass. I’m still concerned though that the city of Santa Monica will not implement signal preemption for the at-grade Colorado segment. I hope im wrong. We certainly don’t want a repeat of the street running in downtown long beach or on the east side extension. Because in those segments you might as well be riding a local streetcar rather than a regional rapid transit line.

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  2. So a person going from Santa Monica to Culver City pays the same price as another person going from Santa Monica all the way to Downtown.

    Brilliant! (sarcasm)

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  3. Its amazing all this is happening at all. I remember hearing all this with the first MTA and nothing happening at all, just smelly diesel buses with no air conditioning at all. Its good to see the old “air line” being reborn. Having grown up there and actually seeing the PE run and go away its nice. Can’t wait for the Gold Line to be done.

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  4. “The second phase of the Expo Line between downtown L.A. and downtown Santa Monica is expected to open in 2015″

    So we should be able to go from Downtown to Santa Monica starting in 2017……given the track record of Phase I.

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  5. How is it possible that phase 1 could be 18 months behind schedule, and 300 million over budget? I heard from a Metro employee that the station in front of Dorsey set the project back 6 months.

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