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Trains in Santa Monica: Expo Line begins tests near the beach

A test train runs the new Expo Line Phase 2 route between Culver City and Santa Monica.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC
A test train runs the new Expo Line Phase 2 route between Culver City and Santa Monica. The line is expected to open to the public in spring 2016.

Passenger trains are returning to Santa Monica for the first time in more than 60 years, but you can't ride them yet.

Test runs of the Expo Line Phase 2 from Culver City into Santa Monica will begin Thursday. Trains will be operating Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the next several months along Olympic Boulevard and Colorado Avenue. See the full Metro notice for more details.

The Exposition Construction Authority will be testing the overhead electricity lines that power the trains and making sure all of the crossing gates and signals are working properly at intersections.

Testing on the West Los Angeles section of the line has been ongoing since April.

The public won't be able to ride between Culver City and Santa Monica for another eight months or so, but authorities said it's not too early to start taking precautions around the tracks.

The line is light rail; a smaller train moves above ground on tracks that are frequently at street level and intersect with the roads in several places. 

Metro data shows more than 40 accidents have occurred with cars or pedestrians and light rail trains in the past year alone.

Eric Olson, the chief project officer with Exposition Construction Authority, said safety crews will oversee all of the train crossings in Santa Monica until the signals and gates have been thoroughly tested.

He said drivers in Santa Monica might experience some delayed traffic around these intersections, but it should be lighter than during the construction period.

The light rail cars for the Expo Line Phase 2 are being built by a Japanese company at a facility in Palmdale.

Metro expects a small shortage of rail cars when officials first open the line, which will make for longer intervals between trains. They will come every 12 minutes during rush hour and eventually every six minutes when the full fleet of rail cars is operational.

Once open, the Expo Line will connect downtown L.A. with Santa Monica by rail for the first time since the 1953 closing of the Santa Monica Air Line, part of the red car Pacific Electric rail system.

Have you seen a train in Santa Monica? Tweet us a photo @KPCC, or post it to our Facebook page!