The Exposition Construction Authority‘s board has voted for the locally preferred alignment for an extension of the Expo line from Culver City to Santa Monica along the existing Exposition Boulevard right-of-way to Colorado Avenue, where it will continue as a street-running light rail service to 4th Street. The vote clears the way for Los Angeles Metro to begin applying for federal New Start funds for the project. Construction might begin as early as next year, with service proposed for 2015.
The line to Santa Monica will be the continuation of the Expo Line, which is currently under construction, with a planned opening in 2010. That service will provide commuters with a connection between downtown L.A. and Culver City, via Exposition Boulevard. If plans for a downtown connector come through, the Expo Line would eventually connect to Union Station and East L.A. Once completed, travel time between downtown’s 7th Street/Metro Center (where transfers to Red, Purple, and Blue Lines would take place) and Santa Monica would take about 45 minutes.
The Expo Authority’s decision took in a number of possibilities for the line’s route – a number of community organizers argued that it would make more sense to extend trans along Venice and Sepulveda Boulevards (the other potential route shown in the map above) rather than along the existing railroad right-of-way. But the board’s decision was well-reasoned: the chosen route will cost 1/3 less ($1 billion vs. $1.5 billion), have a travel time that is 3/4 as long (15 minutes vs. 20 minutes), and attract slightly higher ridership (64,000 daily vs. 62,000 for the whole line).
Though everyone in Los Angeles is still waiting for a Wilshire subway – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s famous “subway to the sea” that would potentially transport customers between downtown and Santa Monica in 20 minutes – that project is years from even the design phase. And with deep boring necessary for construction, it will take far longer to build than the surface-level Expo Line. Seeing the Expo project move forward into its second phase before the first is even completed is good news.
Image above: Expo LRT phase 2 potential routes, from Friends4Expo