The second phase of the Expo Line will officially open to Palms, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica on May 20, the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Feb. 25.
It will be the first passenger rail transit service to the far Westside since Pacific Electric streetcars stopped running to Santa Monica in 1953.
The project is the second rail line funded by Measure R, thehalf-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project completes the 15-mile Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, where the final station will be steps from the beach, the Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Place, Third Street Promenade and Tongva Park.
The new rail extension will also serve the Westside Pavilion in West L.A. and the job-heavy tech and media corridors along Olympic Boulevard. The 17th Street/Santa Monica College Station is a short walk or bike ride to the popular Santa Monica College and its 34,000 students.
The first phase of the Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City opened in 2012 and heavy construction on the second phase began that same year. Train trips between downtown Santa Monica and downtown L.A. will take 46 minutes, giving riders an alternative to driving the often congested Santa Monica (10) Freeway.
“We are in the midst of a region-wide transit revolution,” county Supervisor and MTA Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “With two rail lines opening this spring and three others under construction, as well as massive highway modernization projects underway, we are easing congestion and changing commuting patterns in all corners of the county.”
The $1.5-billion, 6.6-mile light rail project from Culver City to Santa Monica has seven new stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 26th Street/Bergamot, 17th Street/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. Each station features original art.
Three stations will have park-and-ride facilities: Expo/Sepulveda (260 parking spaces), Expo/Bundy (250 parking spaces) and 17th Street/Santa Monica College (70 parking spaces).
“With the Expo Line Phase 2 to Santa Monica, we have a great example of how we are expanding and organizing our transportation network to better serve our region and help ease traffic,” MTA CEO Phil Washington said. “We can safely say that without the taxpayer support of Measure R we would not be standing here today. We’re proud of delivering another great project to help us in our daily commutes.”
The coming weeks will see continued testing on the line, employee training and community outreach to promote safety around the rail corridor. Motorists are encouraged to be alert and to watch for the presence of trains.
Drivers should keep clear of closed crossing gates and look both ways before crossing the tracks. Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists should adhere to all posted “no right turn on red” signs.
The MTA is testing its fleet of new Kinkisharyo P3010 light rail vehicles. The stainless steel light rail cars each seat 68 passengers and are designed to support the MTA’s complex system expansion needs.
The rail cars must go through a “burn-in” process with each car needing to run on the tracks for 1,500 miles. The MTA also must test power and substations components to ensure that everything works properly before regular service begins.
The MTA has posted 24 safety ambassadors along the alignment from Bagley Avenue and Exposition Boulevard in Los Angeles to 5th Street and Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Colorado Avenue segment to encourage safe behavior around trains and answer questions about the Expo Line. Ambassadors are retired bus and rail operators who are fully trained in safety rules and regulations.
The second phase of the Expo Line includes a paved bike path that runs along most of the right-of-way between Culver City and the 17th Street/Santa Monica College Station. The bikeway includes lighting and landscaping, and each station has secure bike racks and lockers for the convenience of cyclists using the MTA system.
The Expo Line’s second phase also includes a new rail maintenance facility in Santa Monica that can house up to 48 light-rail vehicles and will operate on a 24/7 basis.
The Expo Line was built by the Exposition Construction Authority, an agency set up by the state to plan and build the line. The MTA has accepted the project from the authority and will own and operate the new section of Expo Line tracks.