Tuesday, August 06, 2013

California court dismisses LA Expo Line suit

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California court dismisses LA Expo Line suit Friends 4 Expo Transit

The California State Supreme Court, in an opinion issued Monday, Aug. 5, 2013, dismissed objections from "Neighbors for Smart Rail" objecting to Phase 2 construction of the Los Angeles Metro Gold Line.

Light rail transit advocates said the move clears the way for continued construction of the Expo Light Rail Line, now being extended about eight miles from its current terminus in Culver City to the vicinity of the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif.

The decision, first reported by LA.Streetsblog.org, said the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA, or "Metro") and the Expo Construction Authority and Metro did not intentionally violate California environmental laws when creating the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line, though it was guilty of unintentional oversight.

"We are gratified that the California Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court rulings. Today's decision is a win for taxpayers and the future riders who will soon benefit from a direct connection between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica," said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe. "We remain focused on finishing the Expo Line on-time and on-budget in 2015."

Neighbors for Smart Rail asserted the project's environmental impact report (EIR) was flawed because it focused on future impacts and not present day ones, "exclusively employing an analytic baseline of conditions in the year 2030 to assess likely impacts on traffic congestion and air quality, " while failing "to disclose the effects the project will have on existing environmental conditions in the project area."

The group's second objection was more traditional and transparent, concerned with potential automotive-related disruption, in asserting the project's EIR "fails to incorporate mandatory and enforceable mitigation measures for potentially significant spillover parking effects in the neighborhoods of certain planned rail stations."

Said the court, "We agree with Neighbors on its first claim, but not on its second," adding, "Although we conclude the EIR fails to satisfy CEQA's requirements in the first respect claimed, we also conclude the agency's abuse of discretion was nonprejudicial. Under the particular facts of this case, the agency's examination of certain environmental impacts only on projected year 2030 conditions, and not on existing environmental conditions, did not deprive the agency or the public of substantial relevant information on those impacts."