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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) has asked that three state lawsuits that challenge the agency's environmental studies for the Regional Connector light-rail project be dismissed.Three state lawsuits and three federal lawsuits over the project were filed against the agency last year. Although they have not been consolidated, the suits are proceeding separately in the same courtrooms before the same state and federal judges, according to information posted on LACMTA's website. A court hearing on the state cases is scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court.The lawsuits claim that the agency's Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) on the Regional Connector project does not satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The project involves a 1.9-mile underground light-rail line that will connect the Blue, Expo and Gold lines in downtown Los Angeles.Since the hearing for the state cases is scheduled for Friday, LACMTA officials released a statement about their motion to dismiss.In part, the statement says: "Contrary to the claims of these property owners, Metro [LACMTA] has also filed a motion to dismiss the CEQA lawsuits based on a statutory exemption. The particular exemption provides that CEQA does not apply to 'facility extensions not to exceed four miles in length which are required for the transfer of passengers from or to exclusive public mass transit guideway or busway public transit services.' With its adoption of this exemption, the Legislature has conclusively determined that certain public mass transit projects should not be subject to the burdens of CEQA compliance, including CEQA litigation."LACMTA officials also note that the project meets the exemption's requirement since the rail connection is planned to transfer riders through downtown between LACMTA's fixed guideways comprising the Metro Gold, Blue and Expo lines, creating seamless light-rail travel throughout L.A. County.The agency's motion to dismiss the three state cases "in no way diminishes the value of the public process that led to the project's approval," LACMTA officials said in the statement."That process resulted in changes to the project that are important to the community, and it resulted in the mitigation of environmental impacts," they said.
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