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First stage of Expo Line complete with opening of Culver City station Gary Walker | Sun, Jun 24 2012 01:05 PM

Light rail transportation to the Westside will finally arrive Wednesday, June 20 in the form of the Metro Exposition Transit Corridor Light Rail Line, known as the Expo Line.

The station, located near the corner of Robertson and Venice boulevards, is the last leg of Phase I of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decades-long initiative to bring light rail to the Westside.

“We’re very excited about the (station opening),” said Exposition Construction Authority Chief Operating Officer Samantha Bricker. “It will be a great interim stop for Westsiders to connect to the rest of the light rail network.”

Culver City Mayor Andrew Weissman said Westsiders and Culver City residents have been waiting for this for a long time.

“Anything that has the potential to reduce traffic and congestion regionally is a good thing,” he said.

Former Culver City Mayor Alan Corlin, who spent more than half of his tenure on the council as the city’s representative on the light rail construction board, said the train was good for Culver City as well as the region. But he is disheartened that a planned development near the station has been put on hold after the Legislature dissolved the state’s redevelopment agencies last year.

The mixed-use project that was slated to be constructed at the light rail site is on land once owned by Culver City’s Redevelopment Agency. After the elimination of the agencies, cities lost millions in redevelopment dollars.

“I’m terrible disappointed that the project will not be there,” Corlin told the News. “I hope that a development will be there because we’ll be the end of the line without it.”

Ken Alpern, a light rail advocate, said the opening of the Culver City station symbolizes the expansion of mass transit into the Westside.

“The full potential of Expo Phase I is being realized by its extension into Culver City (because it moves beyond the Mid-City and now truly has some component of Westside exposure,” said Alpern, a Mar Vista resident who is the co-chair of the Transit Coalition.

“Residents of Palms, Mar Vista, Venice, Del Rey and Marina Del Rey will particularly benefit from the Venice and Robertson Expo Line station, with significant benefits to West Los Angeles, Westchester and Santa Monica residents as well because the of connecting Lincoln Boulevard Rapid Bus.”

Businessman Goran Ericsson thinks Metro has done a good job spotlighting Culver City’s downtown businesses and eateries over the last week during its marketing campaign for the station’s opening.

The rail stop’s proximity to city’s business hub as well as to the Hayden Tract on along National Boulevard can be used to draw residents to Culver City’s theaters and restaurants, added Ericsson, the chair of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to get passengers downtown,” he said.

Weissman said the council would consider exploring a shuttle that will take light rail passengers to other areas of the city as well as downtown Culver City, but not in the short term.

Because the Culver City stop will be the last station in the first phase of Expo, he cautioned that the city could have some short-term challenges around the station.

“It remains to be seen how successful (the light rail line) will be in getting people out of their cars. There will likely be some congestion-related issues until people learn how to navigate parking and until it reaches Santa Monica,” the mayor said.

Corlin agrees. “One of my worst fears was if this stop was the end of the line, we would be forced to deal with all that comes with being at the end of the line, like parking and traffic challenges,” he said. “When the line reaches Santa Monica, it has the potential to substantially benefit the region from a standpoint of reducing traffic.”

Weissman said he plans to use the Expo Line for excursions into downtown Los Angeles and beyond. “There are places where I will go downtown where public transportation will be my preferred mode of transportation,” the mayor said.

While he is thrilled that the station will be opening soon and feels it will draw commuters to the train, Alpern said Culver City would nevertheless be forced to deal with certain challenges related to transportation in the short –term.

“Although this increased mobility will afford Westsiders many benefits, the issues of station design, rider amenities, and neighborhood preservation and mitigations are challenges that must be confronted sooner, and not later,” he said.

Metro officials expect the Expo Line to arrive in Santa Monica in 2016.

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