Yaroslavsky says he will vote to approve Expo Line environmental report

At 2 p.m. on Thursday at the County Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles, the second phase of the Expo Line light rail line faces a pivotal moment: the seven-member Board of Directors of the Expo Line Construction Authority are scheduled to vote to certify the final environmental impact report (FEIR) for the second phase of the project, which runs from Culver City to Santa Monica. The first phase, from downtown L.A. to Culver City, is under construction.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a member of the Expo Board and the Metro Board of Directors, wrote on his blog that he plans to vote to certify the phase tww while acknowledging some aspects of it have been controversial. Excerpt:

The Expo Line has had its share of critics, with concerns raised about matters ranging from grade crossings, impact on neighborhoods and placement of the project’s maintenance yard to delays and noise during Phase 1 construction.

But I firmly believe that the FEIR has addressed these issues in great detail and that we can deliver a project that will reflect what our region wants and needs. Extensive analysis has been done to ensure that the Expo Line is built in a manner that is as respectful as possible of the communities through which it will run. New elevated grade separations have been recommended where appropriate. Those intersections include: Venice Boulevard, Bundy, Centinela, Pico-Gateway, Cloverfield/Olympic and Sawtelle. The remainder of the grade crossings will be at street level.

In particular, the prospect of street level crossings at Overland Avenue and Westwood and Sepulveda boulevards has been contentious among some residents who live in the vicinity of the rail right-of-way and who say the train would have serious impacts on traffic, as well as create safety issues, among other problems. The FEIR concludes that those crossings can be built in a way to prevent traffic from growing worse while waiting for trains to pass. Sepulveda, for example, would be widened at the intersection of Pico Boulevard and the FEIR also incudes the option of building a bridge for the train over Sepulveda if extra funding can be found.

The total cost of the project, which is scheduled to open in 2015, is $1.5 billion and the cost of putting the tracks under Overland and Westwood would be an additional $224 million, according to the Expo Line Construction Authority. Bridging over the two streets — which would likely create aesthetic concerns for neighbors — would cost $66 million. No source of money has yet been found for those upgrades; the line is currently going to be paid for with $925 million from the Measure R sales tax increase voters approved in 2008 and about $600 million in state and local funds.

The vote on the FEIR is significant because it allows the planning and construction of Phase 2 to go forward. Four of seven votes are needed for passage. Other key votes will likely come from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles Council members Paul Koretz. The crossings at Overland, Westwood and Sepulveda are in Koretz’ district and Ridley-Thomas has expressed concerns about Metro’s grade crossing policy and how it may impact the future Crenshaw Line in his district.

It remains to be seen what, if any, legal recourse is taken by residents unhappy with the line if it does go forward. Here’s a related post by Damien Newton at Streetsblog Los Angeles about some other issues likely to be discussed. Mr. Newton predicates the FEIR will be certified. I’ve seen too many City Council meetings to predict anything other than it will likely be a long meeting tomorrow.

I’ve posted an excerpt from the FEIR on the street crossings at Overland, Westwood and Sepulveda boulevards after the jump.Overland Avenue

As part of Milestone 3 (verification stage) of the Metro Grade Crossing Policy, a detailed Synchro analysis model was developed to assess the LOS and queuing impacts on the overall Overland Avenue from the I-10 Freeway to Pico Boulevard. The corridor analysis along Overland Avenue shows that the travel times for the LRT Alternatives would be higher than the No-Build Alternative. Under the LRT Alternatives, additional delays of 40 seconds for the LRT phase and 7 seconds for a clearance phase have been added for every 90 seconds.

The increase in travel time along Overland Avenue between the I-10 ramps and Pico Boulevard would be about 47 seconds in the northbound direction and 20 seconds in the southbound direction during the AM peak hour. The increase during the PM peak hour would be approximately 17 seconds in the northbound direction and 5 seconds in the southbound direction. This would be primarily due to the additional lane in the southbound direction between Cushdon Avenue and Coventry Place assumed for the LRT Alternatives.

Also, the additional traffic signal at the LRT crossing would only affect the adjacent intersections at Ashby Avenue and Coventry Place. The signal at the intersection of Overland Avenue/Ashby Avenue would be pre-empted and a queue cutter would be installed at the crossing/Northvale Road. Intersection level analyses show that based on the DEIR traffic impact threshold criteria, none of the intersections along Overland Avenue would be significantly impacted. The difference in the intersection delay between the No-Build and LRT Alternatives would be less than the significant
impact threshold of 4 seconds at each location.

The Overland Avenue intersections at Ashby Avenue and Coventry Place would have less intersection delay in the LRT Alternatives than in the No-Build. Based on queuing analysis, the queues for most of the movements would be the same in the No-Build and LRT Alternatives. For the LRT Alternatives, the queues at Ashby Avenue and Coventry Place would be shorter than the No-Build Alternative.

The southbound through queues would be significantly shorter in the LRT Alternatives. This would be primarily due to an additional lane in the southbound direction and the proximity to the LRT crossing, which would shift the queues to the LRT crossing. The east/west queues at Ashby Avenue would be less in the LRT Alternatives compared to the No-Build Alternative. The results of the additional analysis were consistent with the DEIR, and in consultation with LADOT, the improvements identified in the DEIR were determined adequate for the Overland Avenue crossing to operate safely at-grade.

Westwood Boulevard

As documented in the DEIR, an at-grade crossing at Westwood Boulevard would eliminate some on-street parking, as well as impact trees and sidewalks, but reconstruct inadequate sidewalks to a larger width.

As part of discussions with LADOT, many alternatives were examined to minimize these impacts, including removing the center two-way left turn lane or
eliminating bus traffic from the street. Based on this analysis and subsequent discussions with LADOT, these alternatives would have resulted in other safety and grade crossing impacts and, therefore, were not considered further. As such, the improvements identified in the DEIR were determined adequate for the Westwood Boulevard crossing to operate safely at-grade.

However, the signal phasing at the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Exposition
Boulevard North was refined, resulting in a revised LOS and delay that are shown later in this section in Table 3.2-14 (Segment 1 Study Area Intersections—Year 2030 LOS [AM Peak Hour]) and Table 3.2-15 (Segment 1 Study Area Intersections—Year 2030 LOS [PM Peak Hour]). The
revised LOS and delay would remain at acceptable levels, as the change in signal phasing would not cause the LOS to deteriorate below LOS E or LOS F or increase the average vehicle delay for the intersection by 4 seconds or more for intersections that are already operating at LOS E or LOS F. As such, the change in signal phasing would result in a less-than-significant impact at this intersection.

Sepulveda Boulevard

As described in the DEIR, the Metro Grade Crossing Policy Milestone 2 analysis indicated that the southbound gate spillback queue from the LRT grade crossing at Sepulveda Boulevard to Pico Boulevard would be insufficient. Therefore, the DEIR recommended adding a third southbound lane between Pico Boulevard and Richland Avenue to accommodate the long queues.

The Milestone 2 analysis also showed that the northbound influence zone queue from Pico Boulevard to the LRT crossing would be sufficient by only 66 feet, which would be the difference between the estimated average peak queue of 484 feet and the available storage space of 550 feet. Although the operational queuing check predicted that there could be influence zone queuing storage deficiencies, based on the above calculations, the DEIR concluded that the existing two northbound lanes on Sepulveda Boulevard between the LRT grade crossing and Pico Boulevard would be sufficient to handle the typical queuing conditions.

In close consultation with LADOT, the Expo Authority conducted the Milestone 3 analysis for the LRT grade crossing at Sepulveda Boulevard. The forecast 2030 PM peak hour operations at the intersection of Pico Boulevard at Sepulveda Boulevard (the closest controlling intersection to the
LRT crossing) showed an LOS F, an average delay per vehicle of 149.8 seconds and a very high volume/capacity ratio of 2.09. These extremely high current and projected future peak hour congestion levels and failing LOS at the Pico/Sepulveda intersection, increase the chance of the southbound influence zone queue calculations exceeding the calculated 484 feet. Furthermore, LADOT indicated that in the event the northbound queues on Sepulveda Boulevard exceed the 550 feet of available storage space, it would not be possible to preempt east/west traffic signals at the Pico/Sepulveda intersection to clear northbound queues on Sepulveda Boulevard due to the need to maintain signal coordination along Pico Boulevard, which is a major City of Los
Angeles arterial.

Based on the ongoing discussions with LADOT and Milestone 3 analysis, it was determined that an additional northbound lane on Sepulveda Boulevard between the LRT crossing and Pico Boulevard (similar to the additional southbound lane recommended in the DEIR), would provide
a “balanced” symmetrical cross-section for Sepulveda Boulevard. It would also improve the highly congested forecast operating condition of Pico/Sepulveda intersection by reducing average PM peak hour delay per vehicle by 11 percent. Further, this third southbound lane would significantly decrease the chances of violating the influence zone queues, since it would reduce the PM peak southbound storage requirements from 484 feet to a manageable 319 feet,
within the available 550 feet. Therefore, the FEIR adds a third northbound through lane on Sepulveda Boulevard between the LRT crossing and Pico Boulevard. Furthermore, the third northbound lane would be extended north of Pico Boulevard, with proper transition lengths provided back to two lanes north of Pico Boulevard. This would ensure that the additional third northbound lane at this intersection would provide sufficient traffic capacity, operating as a third through-lane.

In addition to the proposed traffic and grade crossing improvements proposed for Sepulveda Boulevard, the Expo Authority has evaluated the issues associated with a potential future grade separation of Sepulveda Boulevard, along with an aerial station at the same location as the at- grade station (i.e., just east of Sepulveda Boulevard). The Expo Authority has included the Sepulveda Boulevard grade separation and aerial station as a design option in response to
community comments and the potential development of commercial and /or residential properties on the property generally known as the Casden parcel. This parcel is located just west of Sepulveda Boulevard and immediately north of the Expo ROW. An aerial station would provide better joint development opportunities, as well as better pedestrian, auto, and commercial vehicle circulation. Since the station would be located in close proximity to Sepulveda Boulevard, a grade separation of the LRT guideway would also be required. Thus, the Expo Authority has included the aerial station and grade separation of Sepulveda Boulevard as a design option in this FEIR, which could bfunding by others.

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

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