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UPDATED: L.A. Residents File Lawsuit Against Expo Line Bikeway Construction

Chantae Reden, Susan Shimotsu |
September 17, 2010 | 12:12 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporters

The building of the Expo Line light railway has encountered difficulties after Los Angeles homeowners near the planned bikeway filed a lawsuit June 9 against LADOT and Caltrans for not providing an adequate environmental review of the bikeway, LA Streets Blog reported. The Expo Line was granted categorical exclusion previously, exempting it from full environmental review.

The Expo Line and a bike path will parallel the I-10 freeway. Phase one of the Expo Line is set to travel 8.6 miles along Exposition Blvd. to Culver City. Construction of phase two will begin later this year and run from Culver City to Santa Monica. The controversy lies in the L.A. City-owned easement between homeowners and the I-10 freeway, where the bikeway is set to be built. The easement area is marked in red in map below.

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Spanning from Figueroa to Vermont, the bike path will be shared with other vehicles on the road. Five-foot wide lanes on the road exclusively for bikes will begin west of Vermont. Beginning in La Cienega and ending in Venice/Robertson, a bikeway is scheduled to be built exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. The bikeway between Motor Avenue and Northvale Road is the targeted portion under the lawsuit, where it interferes with homeowner backyards.

James Greenwood, a homeowner listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, says the Expo Line's completion "does not serve the community because it does not go through commercial areas. Instead, the light rail passes through residential neighborhoods, schools, and a library, causing disturbance."

He also says the light rail may even be counterproductive, saying the Expo Line "will be a nightmare for traffic with trains running every four minutes through major streets."

Part of the bike path is scheduled to be built in interference with the backyards of L.A. residences. Since the lawsuit, the categorical exemption has been retracted. LADOT and Caltrans now must return a full environmental review in a timely manner. If they fail to do so, the bike path project could go over budget and be killed.

To receive categorical exclusion, the full environmental review must explore any scenario “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” as stated by the National Environmental Policy Act. This includes any noise disturbance and light disturbance of nearby residences. 


Darrell Clarke, a member of FRIENDS 4 EXPO TRANSIT, a volunteer group that promotes the completion of the Expo Line, commented on the lawsuit, saying he doesn't expect the lawsuit to have a negative consequence on the Expo Line.

"The burden is on the plaintiffs," he said. "The plaintiffs claim the Expo Line will block access to the I-10 freeway. In reality, the crossing gates for the Expo Line will take about half the time it takes to wait at a traffic signal."

Clarke is optimistic about the future of the Expo Line and says, "so far the preliminary engineering for phase II as well as the contracting is moving forward."


Similar lawsuits have been filed in San Francisco, where an injunction was issued on the construction of a bikeway, delaying the project four years. The court issued for an extensive environmental impact report, similar to the demand placed on the Expo Line. On August 6, the San Francisco Superior Court lifted the injunction, allowing for the biggest bike lane project in San Francisco’s history.

Reach reporter Chantae Reden here.

Editor's note: The final quote by Clarke was revised on Sept. 23 to state that the contractor selection has not yet been completed. The phrase buffer zone was changed to easement for clarity.


Bicyclists in Los Angeles can now check for every planned and current bike lane project for 2010 in the city, thanks to the L.A. Department of Transportation’s new bike map.

The map, released by LADOT and powered by Google, has distinct color codes for bike paths, bike lanes and sharrows, which are wider lanes intended to be “shared” by bicyclists and cars.

This all-encompassing chart, launched on Monday, comes on the heels of complaints from bicyclists and motorists alike about LADOT’s apparent lack of communication with residents on bike lane projects.

Last month in Northridge, LADOT did not notify anybody of its plans to add 1.2 miles of bike lanes until pre-striping markings appeared on the street.

"Nobody, not the Bicycle Advisory Committee, not the neighborhood council, or anyone else that I've spoken had any advance knowledge of any of this," committee president Glenn Bailey told LAist.

Should the city council pass the draft L.A. Bike Plan, about 40 miles of bikeways will be added each year over a five-year span. “That would be a lot more lines on the map,” the department said through its blog.

Reach reporter Susan Shimotsu here.
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