In a six to one decision, the California Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals and the approval by the Exposition Construction Authority of the extension of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Expo Line light-rail transit project from Culver City to Santa Monica.
The decision was made after a long-running lawsuit brought by Neighbors for Smart Rail against the second phase of the Expo Line. Neighbors for Smart Rail had alleged that the environmental study for the project was insufficient in two regards. On those points:
1. The Supreme Court found that the Expo Construction Authority sufficiently studied the effects of spillover parking near stations.
2. The Supreme Court also concluded that transportation agencies have discretion under certain circumstances to measure the significance of a project’s traffic and air quality impacts against future conditions (the Expo Line study used conditions as they were expected to be in 2030).
Work on the $1.5 billion, 6.6-mile Phase 2 extension is already well underway along the entire alignment, with all eight bridges under construction. Currently, there are almost 400 workers on the project and this decision will enable them to remain on the job and allows construction to continue on schedule.
“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.”
While the Court indicated that the Expo Authority should have also measured the significance of the Expo Line’s traffic and air quality impacts against conditions in 2015, when the project was expected to be complete, the court concluded that this was an “insubstantial” technical error and that technical error did not preclude informed decision-making about the project’s impacts and public participation regarding the Expo Project.
The Expo Line Construction Authority does not have to redo any part of its environmental study for the project and construction work may continue to proceed.