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Expo Line kicks off its final leg

Traffic crawled at an infuriating pace Monday morning on the 10 Freeway.

But at a groundbreaking ceremony for the last leg of the Expo light-rail line to Santa Monica, dozens of Southland officials proclaimed a different future.

“People get stuck coming into this area in the morning to go to work ... and get stuck going home when they leave,” L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said at the ceremony in the beach city. The Expo Line is “not going to solve the traffic problems of the Westside, but it’s going to give people an alternative to being stuck with the problems on the Westside.”

Construction of the first phase of the Expo Line, an 8.6-mile stretch from the downtown 7th Street/Metro Center station to Culver City, has been underway since 2006 and is slowly nearing completion. The $1.5-billion second phase will continue 6.6 miles west to Colorado Avenue and 4th Street, about a half-mile from the ocean.

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Transportation officials hope to open the full line sometime in 2015 and say they will be able to shuttle commuters the entire 15.2 miles in a reliable 46 minutes. A shortened segment of the first phase is planned to open near the end of the year, with the entire first phase to Culver City scheduled for completion in early 2012.

The Expo Line will be the first to penetrate the often-gridlocked Westside since streetcars crisscrossed the region. Officials estimate its ridership will rival that of the heavily used Blue Line from Long Beach to downtown L.A., and said it could become one of the busiest rail lines in the country.

“It’s the best day we’ve had in transportation in 50 years for the Westside,” said L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, one of several speakers at the ceremony.

“It means jobs, real jobs, right here,” said county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom surveyed the skyline surrounding the vacant lot where the ceremony was held and rattled off proposed housing, business and recreation projects the line could help advance.

“It is transformative,” Bloom said. “The light rail coming in, and the number of passengers it’s going to carry and the change it’s going to make.”

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com


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