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Metro Unveils Final Environmental Documents for Westside Subway

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"This is a project Los Angeles has been talking about for fifty years," Jody Litvak, Metro.

The first public meeting I ever went to in Los Angeles was held in a movie theatre on Wilshire Boulevard.  The Southern California Transit Advocates were making a presentation on the "Subway to the Sea," a fanciful plan to extend the Purple Line all the way to the Ocean.  The sparse crowd was mixed between true believers and skeptics.  At the time, the entire project seemed something of a pipe dream.

Today, that dream is well on its way to some sort of resolution.  While the phrase "Subway to the Sea" has vanished from the promotional materials, the idea of extending the Subway all the way to Westwood has made major steps forward.  Today marks another milestone, as Metro unveiled the Final Environmental Study for the project.  Public meetings are scheduled for next week and the documents will head through the Metro Committee process this April and could be approved by the Board of Directors at their April Board Meeting.

There weren't a lot of surprises at today's media briefing.  The documents point towards putting a station at the corner of Constellation Avenue and Avenue of the Stars and tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.  The documents don't guess on an opening date, with the funding picture in Washington D.C. still somewhat unclear.  The documents don't call for any stations west of Westwood at this moment.

Of course, there is the little matter of the opposition from the City of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District.  The City sent Metro a report outlining their concerns about tunneling under the high school by consulting firms , Exponent, Inc. and Shannon & Wilson last Friday.  The report is not yet available online, and its findings were not incorporated into the final document.  Metro is also "eagerly awaiting" the results of the tunneling studies completed by the Beverly Hills Unified School District earlier this year.  The Beverly Hills Unified School District released a statement earlier this afternoon:

Metro is putting process and politics ahead of substance and safety by recklessly pressing ahead with a so-called ‘final’ EIR.  Metro’s continued reliance on flawed studies and information to justify a more expensive station that benefits politically-connected developers at the expense of everyone else – including future generations of public schoolchildren is unacceptable and will not go unchallenged. If Metro were really interested in safety and in ‘getting it right’ it would have waited a few weeks for the results of detailed seismic studies conducted by experts retained by the Beverly Hills Unified School District which have already identified substantial flaws in Metro’s analysis.

On the funding front, while Measure R dedicates much of the funding needed to complete the Subway, most of those funds aren't collected yet.  If Mayor Villaraigosa succeeds in his quest to get the America Fast Forward reforms passed by Congress and the President, that funding could be available sooner through low interest federal loans.

As exciting as today's announcement is for those advocating for the Westside Subway, there are still hurdles, funding, Beverly Hills, the final design of the project, that need to be cleared before any shovels can go into the ground.  If all goes well, construction could begin as early as next year.  Metro will hold public meetings unveiling the findings of the document next week on March 26, 28 and 29.  Details on the meetings are below.

·        Monday, March 26, 5-7:30 p.m., LACMA West - Terrace Room, 5th Floor,5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.  Served by Metro Lines 20, 720, 217 & 780.  Validated vehicle parking is available in the Museum's 6th Streetunderground garage. Enter from 6th and Ogden.

·        Wednesday, March 28, 5-7:30 p.m., Westwood United Methodist Church – Fellowship Hall, 3rd Floor, 10497 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024.  Served by Metro Line 20.  Free parking is available below Belmont Village, the building east of the Sanctuary. From Wilshire Boulevard, use the Belmont Villagedriveway and proceed under the overhang to the underground parking lot.  Park on levels P2, P3 or P4 and take the church elevator in the southwest corner of the parking lot.  There will be signs to direct attendees to the meeting room.

·        Thursday, March 29, 5-7:30 p.m., Temple Emanuel – Maltz Hall, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.  Served by Metro Lines 16, 316 and 220.  Limited vehicle parking is available in the Temple’s underground garage off Herzl Way. Metered street parking is also available.

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