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Expo Light Rail Begins Slow-Speed Testing On Westside Tracks

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(credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

(credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Metro is set to begin testing on a nearly-completed section of the new Expo light rail line on Monday between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, transit officials announced.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports the line will extend to Santa Monica — including a stop at West Angeles Church of God where both the bishop and church members welcome the development.

The train will run primarily along Exposition Boulevard from the 23rd Street Station near USC.

An empty Metro Rail train car will be pulled by a high rail vehicle from the Blue Line junction at Washington Street down Flower Street, then west on Exposition and Jefferson boulevards. The procedure will include clearance and overhead testing.

Metro expects to energize the power system later this month and then begin full train testing for a few months. Trains will operate intermittently during this period.

No official date for the start of passenger service has been announced, pending construction completion and testing, but a target date has been set for Nov. 15 for most of the 8.6 mile alignment.

The western end of the first phase of construction, along National Boulevard between La Cienega and Venice boulevards near Culver City, may not be completed until early next year, Metro officials said.

The $862 million Expo light rail line, funded by Metro, is being built by the Expo Construction Authority but will be owned and operated by Metro. A second phase to Santa Monica should break ground soon and be completed by 2015.

Monday’s testing will be done at slow speeds as the train moves along the tracks. Metro safety ambassadors will be following the train, along with flaggers to alert the public and answer questions.

Metro urged the public to be extra alert when crossing the tracks now that train testing has begun.

The agency is warning residents and motorists that railroad crossings that have been empty will soon have fast-moving, very quiet trains on them. All pedestrian crossings have signals and alarms, and all cross streets have signals.

Some neighborhood residents have objected to the new route, particularly near Dorsey High School, and a station was added at Farmdale Avenue to ensure that trains will proceed slowly in that area.

When regular service starts, trains will split off of the existing Blue Line tracks at Washington Street, near Staples Center, and head south, curve west through a new tunnel near USC, and head west along Exposition and Jefferson.

The Expo route was first used for railroad service in 1875, but the last Pacific Electric Railway passenger trains ended service in 1953. Limited freight service operated along Exposition Boulevard until about 1989.

Final environmental studies are being completed on Phase Two of the project, which will extend service west from Culver City through West Los Angeles to Santa Monica.

And funding has been secured for connecting train tracks at Crenshaw Boulevard, which will extend south through Leimert Park, west through Inglewood, and then south to LAX and a connection with the Green Line.

If the proposed “downtown connector” subway is built, light rail trains could travel straight through from East Los Angeles or Pasadena west to downtown Los Angeles, and then on to Santa Monica or LAX, by way of the new section of the Expo Line.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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