It's only taken a century or so, but subway construction to the Westside via Wilshire Boulevard began today, according to The Source. While it's only utility relocation, and major station and tunnel work for the Purple Line extension won't start until 2014, it's a major win for Mayor Villaraigosa, who made the $6.3 billion project the centerpiece of his efforts to improve public transit in LA. "The birthplace of car culture is well on its way to becoming the new home of a 21st-century transit culture," he said today at a press conference. Utility crews are now moving underground phone lines near the future La Brea station--between La Brea and Detroit, to be exact--and will then move to telecommunications lines near the future La Cienega station and the Purple Line's current western terminus at Western Avenue. The subway will eventually stretch to Westwood's VA hospital, but crews are working on the four-mile first phase to the edge of Beverly Hills, which includes stops at La Brea, Fairfax, and La Cienega.
The first phase's opening isn't scheduled for about a decade, though most of the project could have opened within that time if voters had passed Measure J, which would have extended the Measure R sales tax that funds transit and freeway projects. Villaraigosa and Metro CEO Art Leahy are still trying to speed up the opening, likely with federal loans that are built into a recent transportation bill (a Democratic president and Senate definitely works in their favor).
Beverly Hills is suing over the Century City station, as well as making a stink over work near La Cienega. But don't bet on them having much traction on the latter issue as a judge just shut down a stop-work request from Downtown business owners objecting to the Regional Connector subway project across town. Also, Beverly Hills mayor William Brien is such a fan of the project that he spoke at today's press conference, The Source notes (see below).