Citizens' Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line http://www.fixexpo.org "Every grade crossing is an accident waiting to happen" David Solow, Director of Metrolink Sat, 06 Feb 2010 19:13:52 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.6 en hourly 1 Next Meeting: Mon Jan 11 http://www.fixexpo.org/2010/01/jan-11-mtg/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2010/01/jan-11-mtg/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2010 20:20:53 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=357 We ended 2009 on a great note, by filling the MTA board meeting to help secure passage of the Mark Ridley-Thomas motion to require staff study and identify a funding strategy to keep the entire Crenshaw Blvd portion of the Crenshaw Line underground. It is going take a sustained effort to get the MTA to do what they don’t like doing: using taxpayer resources in South L.A. And we of course must continue our fight in the courts and on the streets to get the Expo Authority to appropriate the dollars for a grade separated option next to Dorsey H.S. at Farmdale Ave.

Join us at our first community update and organizing meeting in the new decade.

Monday, January 11, 2010
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

3731 Stocker St Suite 201 (map)
Los Angeles, CA 90008
(enter building from the back parking lot off of Santa Rosalia Drive)

Topics for discussion:

-Expo Line: Status update on the CPUC process at Farmdale Ave, preparing for the next CPUC Public Hearing and a review of MTA’s eminent domain attempts.

-Crenshaw Line: Mobilizing business owners and residents along Crenshaw Blvd (most still don’t know what MTA is planning).

-Blue Line: Over the holiday weekend MTA’s Blue Line, America’s deadliest light rail, took its 98th victim at Vernon Station – the deadliest light rail crossing in America. We need to become more active on this front.

If you like, RSVP on our Facebook page.

(Front page image: photopia Flickr)

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Distorting Environmental Justice is an Injustice http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/distorting-ej-is-an-injustice/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/distorting-ej-is-an-injustice/#comments Thu, 24 Dec 2009 15:58:58 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=335 By Damien Goodmon, Coordinator of Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line & Chair of Joint Committee on Rail Transit of South L.A. Neighborhood Councils

(Image courtesy Univ. of North Texas Center for Environmental Philosophy)

(Image courtesy Univ. of North Texas Center for Environmental Philosophy)

Justifying the construction of unsafe and congestion worsening rail crossings in non-poor white communities, because they’re being built in majority-minority South LA, is one of the more incredible subtexts to emerge in the Expo Line discussion. It should be noted that these statements are NOT coming from our coalition of civil rights, neighborhood councils and community groups that has led the South LA fight for environmental justice on Expo Phase 1. Rather, the cynical chatter is coming from the public agencies, politicians and apologists who have opposed our efforts at every turn.

The objective of environmental justice laws is to raise the environmental standards, quality of life and participation in the decision-making process for minority and low-income communities, not to lower them for non-poor Caucasian communities. To realize this, one need only extend the practical application of our opponent’s misinterpretation of environmental justice: building a large polluting port in Malibu would be justified by the presence of one in Wilmington, building a landfill in Beverly Hills would be justified by the one in Sun Valley, etc. Such arguments are clearly illogical and contrary to the objectives of the environmental justice movement, which is rooted both in the cause of civil rights and environmental protection.

Recognizing that low-income and minority communities (“environmental justice communities” or “E.J. communities”) are substantially more likely to be subjected to policies, designs and projects that are harmful, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, which is the basis of every federal agency’s environmental justice policies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. E.O. 12898 begins:

“[E]ach Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States…”

E.O. 12898 remains a response to centuries of economic and political disenfranchisement that is institutional, systemic, and at times racial. Fifty years of civil rights legislation and the election of an African-American president not withstanding, the problem persists.

Environmental injustice can manifest itself in many ways. On the Downtown LA to Culver City Expo Phase 1 project it is shown in the disproportionately adverse effects on the minority and/or low-income South LA communities when compared to the only non-E.J. community that the project impacts – Culver City. MTA has appropriated the resources to build a line that is totally grade separated (the train crosses no street) in Culver City, while building the project in South LA on the cheap with over a dozen street-level crossings across busy intersections and at the doorstep of large urban schools.

Despite the claims of the Expo Line Construction Authority and opponents of “grade separation” (trains crossing the street underground or elevated), the MTA Grade Crossing Policy determined that the Culver City crossings at Washington/National and Jefferson/National were supposed to be built “at-grade” (street-level).

Excerpt from the MTA Grade Crossing Policy Recommendations for Expo Phase 1 showing recommended at-grade crossings in Culver City.

Excerpt from the MTA Grade Crossing Policy Recommendations for Expo Phase 1 showing recommended at-grade crossings in Culver City.

Also untrue is that Washington/National had to be grade separated because the policy required Venice/Robertson to be grade separated. In truth, the distance between the two crossings is sufficient to cross Washington/National at-grade and transition to an elevation over Venice.

Rendering of possible design with an at-grade Washington & National crossing AND Venice & Robertson elevated crossing

Rendering of possible design with an at-grade Washington & National crossing AND Venice & Robertson elevated crossing

The grade separations and additional resources to build them were added to the project because the City of Culver City opposed street-level crossings in their boundaries, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant fees and bureaucratic resources fighting MTA, engaged in intense political lobbying and used the threat of a legal challenge. Culver City was successful, and as a result the Expo Phase 1 adverse impacts are inequitably placed.

Phase 1 discrepancies

The discrepancies in impacts of the Expo Phase 1 Project

This disparity is best illustrated in the construction budget: $185 million for the one mile from La Cienega to the Culver City terminus, vs. $140 million for the 4.5 miles from Vermont to one block east of La Cienega in South LA.

$185 million/mile west of La Cienega vs. $31 million/mile in South LA

$185 million/mile west of La Cienega vs. $31 million/mile in South LA

The point is not that the Culver City crossings should be built at-grade. The adverse impacts of street-level crossings on safety, congestion, air quality, emergency service response times, and others environmental impacts would be severe. The point is that the impact of street-level crossings is also severe in South LA. Internationally renowned rail safety experts and nationally renowned vehicular accident causation experts have raised alarm bells about the hazards to pedestrians and motorists, and congestion at several of the major intersections like Crenshaw, Western and Vermont will be worsened to Level of Service F (the worst possible congestion level) with the project.

Furthermore, the process of proposing substandard designs and forcing communities to fight for what MTA calls “betterments” but most in the public consider basic necessities, will inevitably lead to projects with disparate impacts. E.J. communities are far more likely to be politically disenfranchised and/or to lack access to legal recourse, both of which are severe impediments to fighting projects or winning concessions/mitigations.

So what’s the correct course to address the environmental injustice on Expo Phase 1, which for better or worse MTA has legally segmented from Expo Phase 2? Consistent with the objective of raising standards for E.J. communities, not lowering them for non-E.J. communities, we have focused on the cause of grade separating South L.A.’s street-level crossings to eliminate the “disproportionately high and adverse human health [and] environmental effects.”

The need to address the disproportionately adverse effects of the project is why simply adding one or two grade separations to the project in South LA is not enough – there would still be another 3.5 miles of Expo Phase 1 E.J. communities that will be exposed to the hazards and adverse impacts of street-level crossings, of which Culver City has been completely spared.

MTA/Expo could have and still can tap a variety of resources to fund the grade separations, including the federal stimulus act, Proposition 1B and Measure R. But the reality is they don’t want to and neither do those who seek to misconstrue the meaning of environmental justice. MTA wants to build the Expo Line as cheaply as possible without regard to the 100-year impact to traffic, public safety, community cohesion, system capacity and public need, which all necessitate grade separation.

MTA’s reasoning is flawed and must be resisted in the streets and in the courts. Building 15 miles of inadequate and unsafe rail that will worsen already congested traffic is bad for all communities and the region, and it is not a better use of taxpayer resources than building 10 miles of good rail that will serve our 100-year transportation needs.

Citizens should place the blame for poor planning and performance right where it belongs – in MTA’s lap and not attempt to pit communities against one another by misrepresenting the meaning of environmental justice. After all only the most cynical would define “justice” as harming one non-poor white child in West LA for every minority child harmed in South LA.

As published in this week’s CityWatchLA article, with applicable renderings, documents and links.

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Crenshaw Subway Motion APPROVED! http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/crenshaw-subway-motion-approved/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/crenshaw-subway-motion-approved/#comments Fri, 11 Dec 2009 21:59:44 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=313 YES WE DID!

We came in busloads and caravans. We came in numbers so great that the MTA had to open up their overflow room. Hundreds of us descended upon the MTA board meeting and we walked away with a major battle victory: the MTA Board UNANIMOUSLY approved the Ridley-Thomas Crenshaw Blvd. subway motion. (LA Times article)

For the first time in the history of the current process, MTA will now conduct a study and identify a funding strategy to keep the entire Crenshaw Blvd portion of the Crenshaw-LAX Line in a subway. A full Crenshaw Blvd. subway would allow our children, elderly and the public at-large to walk/drive across the street without having to negotiate with 225-ton trains, preserve over 200 parking spaces crucial to the commerce of local small businesses, provide some basic equity to the system, and reduce the travel time of the train ride by 25% (from Jefferson Park to the future LAX people mover in just 15 minutes – faster than cars!).

THANK YOU AND CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL, and to SUPERVISOR MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS!

How Did We Do It?

It began as lead member organizations of the Fix Expo Campaign attended MTA Crenshaw Line meetings early in the process (2007) and submitted comments requesting an underground light rail. We diligently followed the process for the next two years, consistently articulating an underground alignment and, procedurally, keeping underground options on the table so that they could be environmentally cleared, a crucial requirement.

In October ‘09, when the MTA released the draft study for public comment, over 100 of us attended the hearings in our community at West Angeles and Transfiguration Church, and we flooded the MTA staff with comment forms and emails (not just petitions) with a strategically-focused message requesting a subway in the section that, at the time, had no underground option (48th to 59th Streets). Our numbers were so large and consistent that MTA staff recognized it in their staff report to the board.

We spent the month of November pushing the issue on the streets, in the papers and through the airwaves. Our elected officials, many of whom we established relationships with through our Fix Expo advocacy, took note and each of them, from City Hall to Sacramento to Washington D.C. similarly requested that the entirety of the line on Crenshaw Blvd be built in a subway, citing community requests.

The political champion along the way was County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who as an MTA Board Member kept the project on the drawing board, strategically positioned it to be eligible for hundreds of millions in federal funding, and brought the community, business, labor, faith-based and political groups together, as only he can. Ridley-Thomas welcomed the opportunity to use his board seat to represent our community for safety, equity and jobs and offered the Crenshaw subway motion.

In the lead up to yesterday’s MTA Board meeting, we flooded the board secretary’s email box. Then when the meeting was called to order, with the senior staff of our elected officials by our side, we – the community – articulated a message in unison and so impassioned that even westside Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, an opponent of subways anywhere except around his Fairfax District home, had to vote for it.

At each stage, everyone of you, through your conversations, phone calls, emails and presence played a critical role in our victory yesterday. It would not have been possible without your diligent attention and actions.

What’s Next?

Within 6-months, MTA staff will present a report on building a subway in the segment between 48th and 59th Streets to the MTA board. We will likely need to be at that meeting as well. MTA staff will also be conducting community meetings about things such as station area planning, likely in the late winter/early spring. And on the contract (jobs) front, the primary contractor for the $10 million study, Hatch Mott McDonald, has been directed to diversify the make-up of their primarily Orange County-based team. We will continue to monitor this process closely, and remain prepared to protest if the changes are not sufficient at this stage in the process.

On the Expo Line front, another CPUC Public Hearing, similar to the one held two-years ago (YouTube video), will be conducted to receive community input on the Farmdale crossing at Dorsey H.S. As reported in this week’s L.A. Times article, that decision is still being made, and we’re still fighting the Expo Authority in the courts. The Fix Expo position is that additional cost and delay to the project are acceptable ONLY for safety improvements in South L.A., something the MTA has long known are necessary. All other cost overruns are unacceptable and a product of waste, fraud, abuse and incompetence. It is why, among other reasons, we’ve requested that Expo C.E.O. Rick Thorpe be fired.

We all must continue informing our fellow citizens about these two major projects in our community.

(Front page image courtesy WalkingInLA)

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Crenshaw Subway Motion Offered http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/crenshaw-subway-motion/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/crenshaw-subway-motion/#comments Sun, 06 Dec 2009 23:56:30 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=293
Subway image

Subway image

GREAT NEWS!

MTA Board Member and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has delivered on the promise conveyed by his transportation deputy at our November 23rd meeting to offer a motion to amend the MTA staff recommendation regarding the design of the Crenshaw Line.

The Mark Ridley-Thomas Park Mesa Heights subway motion, would require the MTA staff to include in their study of the Crenshaw Line an underground segment from 48th to 59th Street. Currently staff has recommended that the section ONLY be studied for street-level operation. The motion, if approved, would require it be studied as underground as well.

Our community MUST be at the MTA Board Meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. in large force to support the Mark Ridley-Thomas Park Mesa Heights subway motion, which will likely be discussed around 10 a.m. (Buses leaving South L.A. at 8 a.m. – RSVP for a seat: 323-761-6435 or crenshaw@fixexpo.org)

If this section is built at street-level the Crenshaw Line would:

  1. Violate the Crenshaw Specific Plan, which prohibits overhead utility lines,
  2. Result in the removal of over 200 parking spaces crucial to the local small business (mostly African-American) economy,
  3. Require the chopping down of the tall mature trees, compromising Crenshaw Blvd’s scenic highway status,
  4. Challenge the Crenshaw community’s economic revitalization efforts, and
  5. Result in numerous at-grade crossings just a block away from Crenshaw High School and St. Johns Evangelist Church and right in front of View Park Prep School, placing children and other members of the public in jeopardy from the hazardous at-grade crossings and worsening traffic.

Credit goes to MRT for stepping up to the plate.

Credit goes to MRT for stepping up to the plate.

By studying an underground segment and requiring staff to identify a financial strategy to fund it, the Crenshaw community and MTA would be best positioned to capture the opportunity to build a truly 1st class 21st century rail line on Crenshaw Blvd and avoid the adverse impacts and risks of street-level crossings.

In addition to Mark Ridley-Thomas, lots of credit go to the many community members who showed up at MTA community meetings and wrote in comments to the MTA staff. Our strategic decision to focus comments on this particular section has paid off. Both the staff report and Ridley-Thomas’ motion take note of the large community request for the section to be built underground in addition to the others.

From the MTA staff report:

A significant number of comments requested a below grade alignment along the entire length of Crenshaw Boulevard between the Exposition Line and the Harbor Subdivision. Specifically, commenters requested a below grade alignment between 48th to 59th Streets related to concerns about traffic impacts, pedestrian safety associated with two schools (one located near a station and one located one block away from Crenshaw Blvd), impacts due to reconfiguration of the street and landscaping, and perceptions of equity.”

The full text of the motion is here (pdf):

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority conducted extensive community outreach to solicit comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the CrenshawILAX Transit Corridor. There was an overwhelming level of community support for further study of a below grade separation through the heart of the Crenshaw Community.

The Locally Preferred Alternative proposed by Metro staff recommends a below grade light rail track alignment north of 48″ Street and south of 59th street. However, the track segment between 48th and 59th is proposed at grade.

There may be cost, constructability, safety, environmental and economic development benefits to Metro and to the residents of LA County that can be reached by a below grade connection at this location.

The intent of this amendment to the Locally Preferred Alternative is to have staff perform further study of the cost, constructability, safety, environmental and economic development benefits associated with a below grade rail connection between 48th and 59th streets on Crenshaw Boulevard.

I THEREFORE MOVE, THAT:

1. The scope of preliminary engineering and environmental review be expanded to consider the cost, constructability, safety, environmental and economic development benefits associated with linking proposed underground segments of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor with a below grade connection between 48th and 59th Streets on Crenshaw Boulevard; and

2. Metro staff be instructed to develop alternatives, recommendations and a funding strategy for this segment of the connector.

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Open Letter to the Black Community … and those with concern for our survival http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/open-letter-to-aa-community/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/12/open-letter-to-aa-community/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2009 14:40:47 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=267 Distributed by the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line/Crenshaw Subway Coalition

(This message can be downloaded here: pdf)

MTA Board Meeting:
Thursday Dec. 10, 2009 – 9 a.m.
1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(Tall building behind Union Station)
Buses Leave South LA at 8 a.m.
RSVP for your seat: call (323) 761-6435 or email crenshaw@fixexpo.org

On Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 9:00 AM, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board of Directors will meet to approve the first major contract of a $2 billion dollar light rail project for Crenshaw Blvd., the heart of Los Angeles’ African-American community. Your presence at this Board meeting is vital to demand:

  1. That this engineering contract includes qualified African American businesses representative of the demographics of the community, who have a depth of experience and knowledge of the Crenshaw community.
  2. That this engineering contract includes residents of the Crenshaw community who will recycle their money into community.
  3. That future selection committees include community stakeholders to insure that our voice is represented in the decision making process.

THE IMPACT

This is the largest public works project in the history of South L.A., projected to create 7,800 jobs.

How will the residents of the Crenshaw community share in the economic benefits of this $2 billion investment? The first $10 million dollar investment by MTA offers a very disturbing answer.

MTA’s staff has proposed that a $10 million dollar conceptual engineering contract be awarded to a team that consists of no African American owned businesses, no local businesses and no residents of the Crenshaw community.

Translation: Out of the first $10 million that is being spent by our tax dollars in our community, ZERO DOLLARS will go to African American businesses or residents of our community.  The team selected couldn’t even find a “token African-American” to be their public relations front!

According to the MTA staff report, over 13% of this contract will go to Anil Verma Associates, a sub-continent Asian American (Indian) architecture and engineering firm that has no experience in the Crenshaw corridor.  An additional 15% of the contract will go to other small businesses, none of whom are African-American owned or located in our community and many of whom are based in Orange County.

QUALIFIED AFRICAN-AMERICAN FIRMS ARE BEING PASSED OVER

There are several eminently qualified African-American owned businesses, whose owners and employees live in the Crenshaw Community that were overlooked, including RAW International and Terry Hayes Associates, who performed all of the preliminary planning and design work on this project for over 15 years. The two firms helped keep this investment in our community alive when many elected officials from outside our community wanted to divert funds earmarked for Crenshaw to transit projects in other parts of the county, including the “Subway to the Sea” (Wilshire Blvd.) near westside Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s home.

The message of this decision made by MTA staff is profoundly disturbing and should be a wake up call to our community.

Where is the economic development for our community, when the first $10 million coming in goes out to companies that don’t live in our community and don’t invest in our community?

What is going to happen when design and construction contracts worth over a BILLION dollars are awarded?

Who will speak up if eminently qualified African American professionals are overlooked?

The chances of local residents and local businesses participating at a meaningful level are bleak.  As a community, we must ask ourselves another question:  How could something this blatant happen?

The answer is simple: It happens all the time!

SAME SONG, DIFFERENT DANCE

People from outside African-American communities across the nation come into our communities, take advantage of business opportunities, enjoy individual economic development and take money they made in our communities back into their own communities.

This cycle of sucking the economic life out of the African-American community has gone on since the days of Reconstruction.  While many of our leaders have decried this practice, our community as a whole has yet to mobilize as a cohesive voice to let the powers that be know that this will no longer be tolerated.

This kind of situation would never occur in Orange County or West L.A.! These communities have a cohesive voice that prevents this kind of exclusionary practice to occur.  Even in East L.A. the recently completed Eastside Light Rail project was executed by the Eastside LRT Partners, a partnership that included a prominent Latino owned firm (Barrio Planners) and a prominent African-American owned firm (Jenkins, Gales and Martinez).

NOW IS THE TIME WE STAND UP AND DEMAND THE PRACTICE END

It is time for the African American community to wake up and raise our voice as a united front.

If not now, when?!

If not on this issue, the largest public works project in the history of South L.A. down the center of Los Angeles’ African-American community, where?!

We now have the political leadership in place to insure that our voices are heard.

Since taking office last December, Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas has worked tirelessly to insure that the Crenshaw community receives its fair share of quality transit improvements.  Community groups like ours have organized to become a voice of advocacy before the MTA.

Now it is time to show up to make our voices heard by the decision makers at MTA.

On Thursday, December 10th at 9:00 AM, the MTA Board of Directors will meet to approve this first $10 million contract. It is imperative that you be present.

The way the first $10 million is spent by MTA will lay the groundwork for how our community will (or won’t) benefit in the economic investment of the Crenshaw corridor over our lifetime.

As African-Americans, rich or poor; employed or unemployed; white collar, blue collar or no collar, we are joined together by one powerful bond: the vast majority of us are descendants of slaves.

The time is now for us to embrace our bond and become a powerful and united voice for economic justice.  Let’s unite to build a legacy that our children and grandchildren can be proud of.

May God bless our community.

UR5SQQMJ2TW7

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Website is Under Construction http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/website-is-under-construction/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/website-is-under-construction/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2009 15:36:31 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=249 Please bare with us as we improve our web home.  Some links may not yet be operational, and content may be hidden, all of which will be fixed within the week.  In the interim to be added to our newsletter email: info@fixexpo.org

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Nov 23 Mtg Recap http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/nov-23-mtg/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/nov-23-mtg/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2009 05:16:34 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=220 UPDATE #2: MTA Board Meeting Information

We came together to discuss the on-going Farmdale Avenue crossing issues and to organize around the Thursday December 10, 2009 MTA Board Meeting vote on the Crenshaw Line.
The meeting will take place on the 3rd floor Board Room at 1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Tall building behind Union Station)

Buses are leaving at 8 a.m. from the Jefferson Park and Inglewood area. To RSVP for a seat, please email: crenshaw@fixexpo.org or call: 323-761-6435

UPDATE #1: with the presentation on the Crenshaw Line portion of the meeting and the meeting handouts

Community Mtg 091123

Community Mtg 091123 Handouts

—–
On Monday, November 23rd we will be coming together to discuss the on-going Dorsey HS crossing and Expo Line issue, and organize for the upcoming MTA Board vote on the Crenshaw Line, currently scheduled for Dec. 10th.

Please join us at:

3731 Stocker St Suite 201
Los Angeles, CA 90008

6:30 – 8:30 pm

A light dinner will be served.

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Nov 20 Newsletter http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/nov-20-newsletter/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/nov-20-newsletter/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2009 06:50:51 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=254 In our rush to get the electronic meeting notice distributed yesterday, we neglected to make clear that the Crenshaw Line Organizing/Expo Line Update meeting is this Monday, November 23rd.

We’ve also had individuals request a flyer for distribution in their community and home of worship this weekend. You can download one here: pdf of flyer

Additionally, you can forward this email.

Monday, Nov. 23, 2009
6:30 – 8:30 pm
3731 Stocker Street, LA, CA 90008
2nd Floor Conference Room
(map)

Topics for Discussion & Action

1) Expo Line Update, Including a Status Update on the Dorsey HS Farmdale Crossing

Because of our successful efforts in the administrative courts, MTA still has not received approval from the CPUC to build anything at the Farmdale crossing that is next to Dorsey H.S. They’re stuck! There have been important developments. Come help us continue holding strong and bring about a solution that doesn’t compromise our children’s safety or community.

2) Organizing the Community for the Crenshaw Rail Line MTA Board Meeting Vote on Dec. 10

As we fight from the back-end of Expo to protect our children’s lives and quality of life, we must be on the front end of the Crenshaw Rail Line process that is currently on going. On December 10th, the full MTA board will vote on whether to include in their study an entire underground line on Crenshaw Blvd or one that passes at street level within a block of Crenshaw High School and right in front of View Park Prep.

They will also decide whether the planning and design of the line will include qualified African-American members of the Crenshaw community (more below).

We need to be there in large force to demand the same thing for Crenshaw (a subway) that the Mayor and Supervisor Yaroslavsky want for the affluent Wilshire corridor. Help us organize to turn-out our community.

Coverage of the Crenshaw Rail Line Issue in Local Papers

In The Wave, Betty Pleasant devoted space in her column, The Soulvine, to bring attention to the controversy regarding the MTA staff recommendation for the $10 million Preliminary Engineering and Planning contract:

“I join Damien Goodmon and his group of public transit activists in denouncing this MTA recommendation to award the preliminary engineering and designing contract for the largest public works project in South L.A.’s history to somebody in Orange County when a team that features highly experienced and eminently qualified Black business owners from the heart of the Crenshaw community, itself, already exists!”

The MTA Planning Committee met on Wednesday to discuss the staff recommendation and punted the contract award decision to the full MTA board (on Dec. 10) where Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and the other board members will have an opportunity to amend or reject the staff recommendation on the contract and design.

And the LA Watts Times opinion section covered our full statement on the staff recommendation, where we praise the good, and reject the bad: Statement on MTA’s Staff Recommendations for the Crenshaw Line

FixExpo.org is Getting a Facelift

We’re in the process of converting our website into a more user-friendly and dynamic web home for our organization. Please forgive us if the web address and images look out of place. We hope to be functional by Monday.

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The LA Weekly Honors Our Movement and Leader http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/la-weekly-honors-our-movement/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/11/la-weekly-honors-our-movement/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2009 15:57:00 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=79 In their annual edition of LA People, LA Weekly honored our movement and leader, Damien Goodmon, with an article titled, “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

The location of the photo has significant meaning to the Fix Expo movement and Damien.  The Blue Line crossing at 92nd and Graham is less than 100 feet away from his girlfriend’s church-home.  The crossing is also the location where on a tragic January 2007 day, young 14-year old Lavert Baker, Jr. was killed by a Blue Line train carrying his closest sister while walking home from school. Lavert is just one of over a dozen young adults and children that we can confirm as having their life cut far too short because of MTA’s street-level crossings.  All were killed at street-level crossings.

Here’s how the LA Weekly editor describes the 2009 LA People issue:

“Here we present our fourth-annual LA People issue, in which photographer Kevin Scanlon — shooting more than 60 incredible images over five-week period — and some of the city’s best writers set out to capture portraits of the waitresses and starlets … the tech wizards and rock stars … the activists, gang survivors, political warriors and policy wonks … the scientists, teachers and fabulous nerds … plus the nightlife shapers, art makers and fashion provocateurs that make Los Angeles the only place to live.”

Congrats to us all in the Fix Expo movement for our efforts to improve our community and city!

In case the link breaks, here is the full text:

LA PEOPLE 2009: NO MORE MR. NICE GUY — DAMIEN GOODMON
By Steven Mikulan
April 20, 2009

“I’m a take-to-the-hills kind of guy,” admits Damien Goodmon. “When something’s not being done right, I don’t think of how to make it easier for people who are doing things wrong.”

In 2007 Goodmon, now 27, joined a group of South Los Angeles citizens to wrest from the Metropolitan Transit Authority the same safety considerations taken for granted by residents of the Westside and San Fernando Valley. At issue was – and is – the MTA’s Expo Line Train, which is being built through low-income neighborhoods from downtown to Culver City and, eventually, to the sea. He soon became the leading spokesman for the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line and has since been called an obstructionist, and worse, by his detractors.

No one, though, has questioned his commitment to environmental justice.

Growing up in Leimert Park, Goodmon had little reason to suspect that other cities’ thoroughfares did not resemble L.A.’s bland, pedestrian-hostile boulevards and freeways. His mother didn’t drive, so Goodmon saw the city from the back of an RTD bus. While attending school in Seattle and, later, at Harvard, he realized that Leimert Park had less in common with the rest of L.A., with its cookie-cutter streets and strip malls, and more with other cities that made mass transit a part of the civic fabric. He saw janitors sit next to executives on trains, and small businesses thrive in an era of malls. In other words, he was seeing what was missing in his hometown.

“People treat the city as their car,” Goodmon says of L.A. “They get in it and leave.”

Florida’s contentious 2000 presidential recount first got Goodmon fired up about politics, and he later became a national student coordinator for Wesley Clark’s 2004 presidential run. Afterward, Goodmon immersed himself in the details of L.A.’s transit system, spending some 2,000 hours researching ways to overcome what he calls the city’s two traditional excuses for not building mass transit — that it’s too expensive, and that people can’t be convinced to look 30 years ahead to address the city’s problems.

His early forays into neighborhood activism were met with bemused indifference, he says. Playing Mr. Nice Guy got him nowhere with MTA officials and elected representatives, African-American or otherwise.

“You put on the tie and give them facts, and nothing happens,” he says. “You end up pounding your fist on the podium.”

Of his meetings in politicians’ offices, Goodmon says, “I don’t go in there looking for a handout and something for myself for the future. To work for free and to work day and night, and not ask for something in return other than to fix the issue under consideration — they’re floored by this concept.”

Fix Expo’s accusation of the MTA was simple: By allowing the proposed Expo Line trains to cross heavily trafficked streets at the same level as those streets — especially near Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center — the MTA was inviting tragedy.

“My issue,” Goodmon says, “was factual but unapologetically brutal: We know people are going to be killed. In the process of running over people you’re creating a separate and unequal transit system. And you’re ignoring complaints that would make it a better transit system!”

Community activists demanded the same as what had been put in place at USC and Culver City — that trains cross over or under streets. So far, the group’s fight has won them one of the two victories they were seeking — a pedestrian bridge over the tracks near Dorsey, which they also want for Foshay Learning Center — and they haven’t quit.

The thing that galls Goodmon and Fix Expo is that they have dedicated so much time researching solutions only to be met with suspicion and hostility by L.A. officials.

“We tell them, ‘We’ve done the work for you guys — all you have to do is be the heroes,’” Goodmon says. “We don’t want the glory.”

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Fix Expo to Expo Board: Fire Thorpe http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/10/fix-expo-to-expo-board-fire-thorpe/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/10/fix-expo-to-expo-board-fire-thorpe/#comments Fri, 30 Oct 2009 01:24:00 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=78 On the heels of Rick Thorpe finally being kicked out of his job at MTA after a tongue lashing by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Fix Expo Campaign sent an email to the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors (which is a subsidiary of MTA), with CCs to the MTA Board of Directors and elected officials who oversee the project, requesting the Expo Board fire Thorpe, CEO of the Expo Construction Authority for gross incompetence, failure to meet project goals, the rampant use of manipulating tactics, and a history of disregarding rail safety in minority communities.

The full text of the email is below.

Expo Authority Board Members:

I write on behalf of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line and with the unanimous support of the United Community Associations board to specifically request the immediate termination of Expo Authority CEO Rick Thorpe.

It was a relief to read that Mr. Thorpe resigned yesterday as MTA’s Chief Construction Officer on the heals of intense media scrutiny and specific disgust expressed by MTA Board Member and County Supervisor Gloria Molina regarding outstanding rail safety issues on the Eastside Extension light rail project.

It would be inaccurate to assume that any person who has watched the Expo Line closely over the past few years could not express even greater and more detailed criticism of Mr. Thorpe’s performance and total disregard for rail safety. I regrettably nodded my head in agreement as Supervisor Molina said at last week’s MTA board meeting that:

- She “didn’t trust [MTA] staff”
- Certain members of MTA staff, “only work for some board members”
- She’s had difficulty dealing with Mr. Thorpe to attempt to resolve the outstanding safety issues

Indeed, I nearly shouted out: “If that’s what you’re going through and you’re a board member, imagine what we must go through as a community in South L.A. on Expo.

In response to criticism regarding the lack of safety on the Eastside Extension, Mr. Thorpe has hidden behind the California Public Utilities Commission process, neglecting to mention that he has become a master in manipulating the CPUC.

The Pasadena Gold Line was built by Mr. Thorpe, and the Del Mar crossing was approved in a split decision, in which the dissenting Commissioners stated that Thorpe’s Construction Authority “has not provided full information about several issues to the Commission and other parties throughout this case,” (pg. 42) that there were “last minute changes” (pg. 43) and that “the CPUC should not reward [the] Construction Authority’s lack of disclosure on Del Mar by looking the other way at real safety issues.” (NOTE: The Pasadena Gold Line was originally titled the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line, hence the reference in the decision to the Blue Line Authority).

The dissenting Commissioners proved to be correct in their assessment that grade separation was needed at the crossing to make it safe, as a horrific accident with an elderly driver occurred at the Del Mar crossing, ironically, on the opening day of CPUC Farmdale evidentiary hearing:

Additionally, other at-grade crossings that were contested before the CPUC and approved, resulted in even greater carnage:

Avenue 50:

and [others] in Highland Park:

It’s worth noting that while MTA continues to operate the deadliest light rail line in the country, the Blue Line, as of 2002 the second deadliest was the system built by Mr. Thorpe (San Diego).

Specifically, regarding the Expo Line, Thorpe hired a former Enron lobbyist, Sandra McCubbin, to attempt to unwind the decision by an Administrative Law Judge and Commissioner Timothy Simon, which was crafted after a two-year legal proceeding, and denied the Expo Authority’s street-level 55 mph crossing at Dorsey HS (video) that the former National Transportation Safety Board chairman of all-rail accident investigations in the country said was a catastrophic accident waiting to happen (pg. 7).

Of many conversations I have had with CPUC engineers, the one comment I will never forget came from a staffer who said, “You won’t believe how many times we get shot down from above.” While we may not know who within the CPUC does the shooting, we clearly know who supplies the bullets.

Indeed, astonishingly Mr. Thorpe continues to state that the original CPUC application for the Expo Line to run 55 mph past Dorsey HS is “safe,” even after the CPUC denied it, even after former MTA light rail operators have come out expressing strong opposition to it.

The question before the Expo Authority board, which is primarily made up of South LA’s elected representatives, is whether you will continue to turn a blind eye to this disturbing past, and ignore the warnings of a County Supervisor and previous CPUC Commissioners regarding Thorpe’s tactics. It’s a question of whether you will continue to force the public to ride in a car with a reckless driver or make him pull over and hand over the keys.

The Phase 1 project is nearly a year behind schedule, hundreds of millions of dollars overbudget, has failed to meet it’s local hire requirements, and now the criticism and tactics of the Expo CEO has grown to include a colleague, regarding rail safety of a crosstown light rail project built by Thorpe. Add Supervisor Molina to the former NTSB chief investigator, the public and former light rail operators.

Expo Board Directors Wesson, Yaroslavsky, Ridley-Thomas, Parks, Perry, O’Connor and Maslin: by allowing Mr. Thorpe to continue to serve as the CEO, your concern for student safety and competence as an oversight body and as elected officials is firmly in question.

Sincerely,
/s/
Damien Goodmon
United Community Associations, Chair
Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, Coordinator

CC:
Congresswoman Diane Watson
State Senator Curren Price
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass
Assembly Member Mike Davis
LA City Council Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl
MTA Board Members
LAUSD Board Members
Rick Thorpe, Expo CEO

BCC:
Press & Community

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Mayor: South L.A. Not Even 3/5 "Man" http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/08/mayor-south-la-not-even-35-man/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/08/mayor-south-la-not-even-35-man/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2009 00:44:00 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=76 The following letter was sent to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today. It is clear from his actions, he’s treating South L.A. like we’re not even 3/5ths of a “Man.”

An Open Letter to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:
What Value Have You Placed on South L.A. Lives?

Mr. Mayor:

I must admit that I was somewhat taken by the article in today’s Los Angeles Times, where you call on the elected politicians of the county to “put aside their differences” so that the Wilshire “Subway to the Sea” can be built more quickly (L.A. Mayor Wants to Speed Up Work on Subway to the Sea). At $6-9 BILLION dollars, the Wilshire subway will cost more for just one mile ($500 million), than it would cost MTA to change the Expo Line in South LA from street-level to underground.

By spending our tax dollars to put the Expo Line underground, like the Alameda Corridor trench, the South LA community would be saved from the hazards and adverse impacts of street-level crossings that MTA’s own study shows will result in 52 accidents per year on Expo.

52 ACCIDENTS PER YEAR ON THE EXPO LINE – as many as the worst of years on the deadliest light rail in America, your very own Blue Line, which slices through Compton, Watts, Willowbrook and South LA.

What do you intend to say when those accidents on the Expo Line result in a loss of limb?

…a loss of life?

…the death of a single mother?

…the death of a child?

Children like Lavert Baker Jr. (LA Times: Boy, 14, Killed by Train is Mourned)
Children like Angela Barahona (USA Today: Blue Line Takes a Troubled Route)
Children like Gilberto Reynaga (LA Times: 13-Year-Old Boy Hit, Killed By Blue Line Train).

Unfortunately, Lavert, Angela, and Gilberto are just a few of the over one dozen children among the 94 deaths in the 836 Blue Line accidents that have occurred on your watch.

Do you not cry for Lavert’s father?

Do you not pray for Gilberto’s friends?

Do you not dream what Angela would be doing today if politicians stood up when the Blue Line was being built for what is right, what is wise, what is safe?

Even if you don’t cry, don’t pray and don’t dream, do you not at least fear what will occur to your political life and the city budget if you let the Expo be built at street-level and the first child is killed?

With MTA’s forecast of 52 Expo Line accidents every year, for the next 100 years surely some of them will involve children and some of them will be killed.

Explain to us why that’s okay to you.

Help us understand why you take comfort in ignoring the warnings of international rail safety experts (Meshkati & Quimby), national vehicular causation experts and former MTA light rail operators (Hollins).

Reconcile for us why you have not responded to the over 5000 petitions and letters collected and the requests of dozens of community groups, civil rights organizations, neighborhood councils, School Board members, the UTLA, Parent Collaborative and child advocacy groups requesting you put the funds into Expo so we can avoid those accidents from occurring in South LA.

It can be done. The South LA Grade Separation Project is possible. You have the money. All MTA has to direct it to South LA to extend the trench at Figueroa by U.S.C. to Dorsey H.S. Expo’s own chief engineer estimates it would be a fraction of the cost of the Wilshire subway – less than 5%.

Mr. Villaraigosa, why don’t you believe South L.A. lives are worth 1/20th the value of lives on Wilshire?

Mr. Mayor, you’re not even treating us like 3/5ths of a “person.”

Sincerely,
Damien Goodmon
Coordinator, Fix the Expo Rail Line Campaign

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Coverage of our Hearings Request of MTA by Congress http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/07/coverage-of-our-request/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/07/coverage-of-our-request/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2009 16:48:00 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=75 Several of the local media outlets, including KTLA 5, The Wave, and NBC 4 covered our request for Congressional hearings and investigation of the MTA.

- KTLA 5 Report:

- NBC 4: Activist Calls For Congressional Safety Hearings on Blue Line Safety

- The Wave: The Soulvine – Riding the Rails

In case the links break, here is the full text of the NBC 4 and The Wave Reports:

Activist Calls For Congressional Safety Hearings on Blue Line Safety
NBC 4

A day after a man was killed and a woman injured in separate collisions involving the Metro Blue Line, an activist today called for congressional hearings on the safety of the light rail line between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach.

A 55-year-old man was struck and killed by a northbound train in the 1600 block of East 48th Street yesterday. About five and a half hours later, a 49-year-old woman was critically injured when she was struck by a Blue Line train in the 1500 block of South Flower Street.

Since the Blue Line opened in 1990, there have been 826 collisions and 93 deaths. Metro officials say about 20 of those deaths were suicides.

“Clearly, MTA is indifferent to the safety of the members of the public who must interface with their trains,” said Damien Goodmon of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line.

“Absent congressional intervention and oversight to require MTA quickly implement necessary changes to their rail system and internal processes, MTA will continue killing on the tracks with impunity,” he said. “How much longer must these preventable tragedies continue to occur?”

Metro officials said the criticism ignores safety improvements, including safety cameras and gates that stop motorists and pedestrians from crossing when trains are approaching intersections.

Those safety measures have also been implemented along the Metro Gold Line and the under-construction Eastside Extension.

“It’s really been an evolving process over the last 20 years,” said Metro spokesman Rick Jager. “We need a partner here and that partner is the public. They need to be aware that trains have the right of way and they need to stop, look and listen.”

The Soulvine
The Wave

RIDING THE RAILS — Following three separate back-to-back-to-back Blue Line accidents late last month, which left a male pedestrian dead and a woman trapped in a truck in South L.A. and another woman critically injured downtown, rail safety advocates are requesting a congressional investigation and hearings on the 18-year-old light rail operation in the city and expansion of the system into more complex communities in the Southland. Leading a coalition of several community groups in a fight for rail safety in the city, Damien Goodmon noted: “The three accidents on the Blue Line, which travels at street level between 35 to 55 mph in dense urban areas, bring the train’s death count up to 93 from over 826 accidents.” He called it “the deadliest light rail train in the nation.”

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Request for Congressional Hearings & Investigation of MTA – the Nation’s Deadliest Light Rail System http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/05/request-for-congressional-hearings/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/05/request-for-congressional-hearings/#comments Fri, 22 May 2009 17:51:00 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=74 The following is the Fix Expo press release requesting Congressional investigation and hearings of MTA, the nation’s deadliest light rail system.

Los Angeles, CA – Following two separate Blue Line train accidents yesterday, which left a 45-year old male pedestrian dead in South LA and a 49-year old woman in critical condition in Downtown LA, rail safety advocates are requesting Congressional investigation and hearings into MTA’s rail safety and planning. They say the failure of MTA to address safety deficiencies on the light rail after 18 years of operation, along with the expansion of the proven defective design in more complex urban environments in South LA and East LA are the product of a failed rail safety culture that is leading to preventable deaths on Los Angeles’ streets. The two accidents on the Blue Line, which travels at street-level between 35-55 mph in dense urban areas from Downtown LA through South LA, Watts, Willowbrook, and Compton en route to Long Beach, bring the train’s death count up to 93 from over 826 accidents. It is the deadliest light rail train in the nation.

In a January op-ed in a Los Angeles newspaper, the creator of USC’s Transportation Safety Program, Professor Najmedin Meshkati wrote “These numbers, which are significantly higher than national average rates of accidents and fatalities along the MTA rail network, attest to the dire state of rail safety in LA, which is primarily caused by MTA’s outdated and messy safety-related policies, procedures and practices.”

“There have been years where the Blue Line was responsible for half of all light rail deaths in the entire country, and MTA has repeatedly refused to appropriate the funds necessary to make the system safe,” said Damien Goodmon of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line. “Clearly, MTA is indifferent to the safety of the members of the public who must interface with their trains. Absent Congressional intervention and oversight to require MTA quickly implement necessary changes to their rail system and internal processes, MTA will continue killing on the tracks with impunity. How much longer must these preventable tragedies continue to occur?”

But rail safety advocates and experts say significant blame also falls on the California Public Utilities Commission and Federal Transit Administration, the state’s railroad regulatory agency and federal transit appropriation agency, respectively. “In addition to allowing the unsafe conditions on the Blue Line to go unaddressed for nearly two decades, the CPUC has granted approval and the FTA has provided funding for light rail designs that are nearly identical to the Blue Line and run through even more complex urban environments in South LA with the Expo Line, and in East LA with the Eastside Light Rail Extension,” said Goodmon.

“The CPUC actually gave MTA approval to double the number of trains that run on the most accident prone section of the Blue Line in Downtown beginning in 2010,” Goodmon continued. “At a public hearing on Expo in July a parent of a Foshay School student questioned the credibility of the CPUC by highlighting their refusal to do anything about the Blue Line. In response, the CPUC’s administrative judge said to the amazement of the audience, ‘The Blue Line is safe.’ There’s a problem when the state’s railroad regulatory agency equates the word ‘safe’ with the train line that is by multiples the deadliest light rail in the country – a line that has a fatality rate 98 times greater than even the cars.”

Following the tragic Metrolink Chatsworth accident in September, Meshkati wrote, “[T]he current regulatory, oversight and operational structure for ensuring rail safety in California is not working.”

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Campaign for Stimulus & Measure R Funds to Grade Separate the South LA Portion of Expo http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/04/campaign-for-slagsp/ http://www.fixexpo.org/2009/04/campaign-for-slagsp/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2009 20:44:00 +0000 Fix Expo Team http://www.fixexpo.org/?p=73 Today, in the lead up to our major march and rally tomorrow, we officially launched our grassroots campaign and petition to the Mayor Villaraigosa, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the MTA requesting resources from the Obama stimulus package and Measure R to add grade separations in South LA portion of the Expo Line from USC to Dorsey High School. We’ve titled the endeavor “Expo Line South LA Grade Separation Project.”

Despite the economic downturn, with the passage of Measure R last November (the local sales tax increase for transportation) and the Obama stimulus package, MTA now has more resources for tax dollars that by law has to be spent on rapid transit expansion. (It can’t be spent on bus or rail operations).

NOW IS OUR TIME TO REQUEST THESE RESOURCE GO TOWARD FIXING EXPO!

Please download, sign and return your copy of the letter.

An overview of the benefits of the project, why it fits the major criteria for the stimulus package as articulated by President Obama, and how the Expo Line could be timely built while implementing the new grade separations is below:

Expo Line South LA Grade Separation Project

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