Friday, February 20, 2009
by Damien Newton in StreetsBlogLA
February 20, 2009 - Today, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) finally released its twice delayed, two-years in the making, decision regarding whether or not to allow Phase I of the Expo Line be constructed at grade past Dorsey High School and the Foshay Learning Center. The ruling clears the way for Phase I of the Expo project to be completed by 2010.
The result? The five person CPUC panel backed an Alternative Decision written by Commissioner Chong which still requires a pedestrian bridge at the Farmdale crossing near Dorsey High School but only relieves the Construction Authority from building a crossing at the Foshay Learning Center. The ruling should allow for a speedier construction of Phase I of the Expo Line than if they had went with the original suggestion to build pedestrian bridges at both locations. However, they still need to come up with several million dollars to build the pedestrian bridge for Farmdale.
A second alternative was offered by Commissioner Timothy Simon which would have required the bridge for Dorsey High School, but denied the permit to build near the Foshay Learning Center until a new study could be completed on the pedestrian access to and from the Learning Center after Expo is built. Simon even channeled some of the opposition calling the process that has led to the removal of pedestrian concerns for Foshay an example of why minority communities don't have faith in the public process.
A CPUC judge ruled previously that the Expo Construction Authority had to build pedestrian bridges at both Dorsey High School and the Foshay Learning Center but his ruling is considered only a "suggestion" until the panel made its final ruling this morning.
The decision was blasted before it was even issued. The Los Angeles Unified School District, a longtime opponent of the line released a letter slamming the decision making process as "closed door." (see following) Expo Communities United (ECU), the group with which Damien Goodmon is most closely affiliated, released a letter supporting the LAUSD's position. After the ruling, Goodmon told Streetsblog:
...I find it unfortunate that the Commission adopted such a legally flawed Decision. There are more legal holes in the Chong Alternative Decision, than a pound of swiss cheese. Furthermore, the process which led to the Decision will clearly earn concern any actual judge.
Nonetheless, we look forward to participating in the now mandatory environmental review process, regarding which of the grade separated options at Farmdale will be adopted. Unlike the previous environmental review process, the community enters the process with adequate legal representation.
Additionally, we now more firmly recognize that the only changes that will occur at Foshay or at other crossings along the line, will need to be obtained politically or through other legal courts.
Buried in the text of CPUC's ruling is a summary of the public comment. The document admits that nearly 90% of the comments it received were either against at-grade crossings or against Expo altogether. The early reactions to this decision seem to show that these opponents are not satisfied with either the process or result of the CPUC hearings.
So the question remains, is this the final hurdle before Construction on Phase I of the Expo project can be completed, or is it just another stop on Expo's bumpy ride.LAUSD Ltr to CPUC