On Thursday April 24th, the MTA Board voted to increase the Expo Line budget by $54 million for a Culver City overpass, increasing the project budget to $862 million dollars for the 8.5-mile light rail line from Downtown LA to Culver City. $4 million of the $54 million came from the City of Culver City, while the remaining $50 million came from State Proposition 1B, the $19 billion transportation bond that was passed by voters in November of 2006. $218 million of the bond has gone towards the increase in the Expo Line budget, which was just $640 million six months ago.

Prop. 1B is the same resource the Fix Expo Campaign been requesting MTA go after for grade separations in South LA since the day the bond was passed. It's even on our petitions (pdf). Yet the MTA keeps telling us, "There's no money."

As Carol Tucker of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners Association has said, "They found the money for the Figueroa underpass at USC and they found the money for overpasses in Culver City. They find the money for everything and everywhere except South LA. Have they no shame?"

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We remain concerned about the safety and environmental impacts of the light rail line design as is passes through South LA primarily at street level. The street-level design is unsafe and as evidence by the MTA's Blue Line which at 91 deaths and 802 accidents to date is the deadliest light rail line in the country.

The close proximity of several schools to the rail line, namely Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center, has prompted action from School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, the LAUSD Board of Education, LAUSD Parent Collaborative and UTLA all requesting grade separation at all or some intersections.

The grade separations and street realignment west of La Cienega means no child will have to walk across and no car will have to drive across the Expo Line tracks in Culver City. Yet South LA is being told we have to accept these safety risks.

As child advocate and West Adams Neighborhood Council member Clint Simmons says, "Instead of insulting our intelligence by telling us they can't find the money to build underpasses in South LA, MTA should just admit that killing black and brown kids, and ruining South LA school environments and communities is a part of doing business."

An astonishing fact is that MTA is spending more money to build the the 1 mile from La Cienega to Robertson than they are in the 4 miles from Vermont to La Brea. That's not right, and placing the bulk of the safety hazards and disproportionate environmental impacts in majority-minority South LA communities is textbook environmental racism and against the law.

It's inevitable but we're going to have to go to court. And by our side will be the international law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, LLP. The group's legal strategy will be headed by firm partners Ivor Samson, a recipient of the prestigious 2007 California Lawyer of the Year award, and Christopher Prince, who when he was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was instrumental in the landmark environmental justice case Labor/Community Strategy Center vs. MTA, which resulted in a 10-year consent decree.

"This firm is huge, these guys are winners, and they know how the MTA operates," said Tucker. "It speaks to the level of injustice that they've agreed to represent us pro bono."

As covered on Front Page Online: Culver City Was Taken Care of, Why Not South Los Angeles?