Today, Metro is planning to release the long-awaited final environmental impact report for the nine-mile Westside subway extension that will connect Koreatown to Westwood, mostly via Wilshire. The final EIR includes recommendations for placement of the three stations that are currently undecided on: Century City, Westwood, and the VA hospital in Westwood (placements for the La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega, and Rodeo Dr. stops are all figured out). It suggests that the Westwood station be located at Wilshire and Westwood, while the VA hospital should be at Wilshire and Bonsall. And alarms are likely sounding throughout Beverly Hills because Metro is going with a central Century City station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars, a stop that will require tunneling underneath Beverly Hills High School, which school officials and some BH politicians are apoplectic over.
The EIR points to
ridership jobs within a 1/4 mile from a Constellation/Ave. of the Stars station--the Constellation stop would have about double the nearby jobs of one at Santa Monica Blvd. and Avenue of the Stars (about 20,000 daily boardings jobs compared to 10,000). There is also the issue of an earthquake fault running underneath SMB, which Metro believes negates the possibility of a station there. Both the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills are paying for studies on the safety of tunneling underneath BHHS. In a call with reporters, Metro's Dave Meiger, project manager for the Westside subway, said they will look at the BH reports when they are finished, but they could not wait on releasing their EIR--voters were promised a Westside subway as part of Measure R, which increased sales taxes to pay for additional transit and freeway projects, and Metro appears intent on keeping that promise in a timely manner.
The Westwood stop is not a surprise, as another possible station at the current site of a UCLA parking lot off Gayley proved impossible because of a planned high-rise. The process of digging the Wilshire/Westwood stop, at one of the busiest intersections in LA, will prove interesting.
The VA stop will be at Bonsall, on the south side of Wilshire, close to the VA hospital. Meiger said there's a possibility that an entry or exit to the subway could connect to Federal Avenue (which has office buildings and density), but it's a thorny issue as the VA sits on federal property. Basically, stay tuned on this one.
It was discovered recently that the first phase of the extension will encompass the La Brea, Fairfax, and La Cienega stations. Metro's Dave Sotero says as far as construction, which could start next year after final engineering, "the plan is to put the tunnel boring machines (NOT drills) in the ground at La Brea, bore east to Western, take the TBMs out of the ground there, bring them back to La Brea pointing west and then head to La Cienega." The first segment could open around 2020, but timelines could be sped up with federal loans.
The immediate next step is community meetings regarding the EIR--dates and locations should be up soon on Metro's website--and then the Metro board will decide in April whether to approve the final recommendations and move the project to final engineering.
· Westside Subway Extension Archives [Curbed LA]
· Westside Subway Extension [Metro]