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Metro OKs Subway to La Cienega, Work Could Begin Next Year

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Updated 4:10 pm: Maneuvering around Beverly Hills opposition, Metro's board of directors today approved the final environmental impact report for the first phase of the Purple Line subway extension--with stops at La Brea (rendering above), Fairfax, and La Cienega--The Source reports. Update: The Fairfax station will be on the south side of Wilshire at Orange Grove; LACMA has pledged to pay for a stop on the north of Wilshire at OG. The move allows the project to proceed to final engineering and, hopefully, construction starting early next year. This will also keep the project from being further held up while Metro officials work around delay tactics from Beverly Hills, which is pulling out every stop to prevent a tunnel from running underneath Beverly Hills High School--a necessity to create a central Century City station at Constellation (the alternative at Santa Monica Blvd. sits on a fault line), which is Metro's preferred site. Last week, BH officials voted to request a public hearing with Metro board members--their hope was the request would force a delay on the EIR certification. However, now the hearing can be held and work can progress on the subway's first phase. A resolution involving Century City won't likely come soon though, or without a lawsuit from Beverly Hills.

"The vote was 11 to 1, with Supervisor and Board Member Mike Antonovich voting no. Supervisor and Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained," according to The Source. Public turnout was high at the meeting, with locals, unions, and politicians speaking about the project. Dr. James Dolan, a professor of earth sciences at USC, and Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey, testified in favor of the Constellation stop, the one that would require tunneling underneath BHHS. BH City Councilmember Barry Brucker testified that studies commissioned by the school district may indicate the findings by Dolan and Jones are faulty.

While Metro's crafty move helps keep the project on track for now, there is reason to worry over what Bev Hills has up its sleeve. In its letter last week requesting the hearing, BH's City Attorney wrote of many problems the city has with the entire project. Just regarding the La Cienega station, Bev Hills writes, "The Final EIR also proposes to relocate the terminus of Phase 1 construction from the Fairfax station to the La Cienega station. This change in location will result in significant increases in ridership and boardings at the La Cienega station. In particular, this change will increase boardings at La Cienega from 6,500 boardings per day to over 10,000 boardings per day. This change will result in increased traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety impacts in the vicinity of the La Cienega station that were not previously disclosed. Increased ridership and people in the vicinity of the stations also has the potential to result in additional calls for service to police and fire, as well as increased traffic and noise impacts.

"This change in the location of the terminus for Phase I also has resulted in an expansion of the staging areas with a coffesponding (sic) increase in construction-related impacts that were not disclosed in either the Draft or the Final EIR. La Cienega now will be a cross over station, resulting in 1,000 linear feet of open cut construction - a 66 percent increase over the amount of construction estimated in the Draft EIR. As detailed in the attached memorandum from Bijan Yazin (Exhibit A), this increase will result in substantially longer closures of Wilshire Boulevard and will result in exceedences of the standards of significance for traffic impacts in the City of Beverly Hills. The additional traffic and increased street closures also will negatively affect response times by safety personnel, including the police and fire departments.

"Further, the information provided in Appendix E is inadequate to disclose the potential impacts at the Wilshire/La Cienega station, where 'a temporary [tunnel boring machine] retrieval shaft' is contemplated... However, from a traffic management standpoint, due to traffic impacts at the retrieval shaft, retrieving the TBM is less desirable than dismantling it. An exception is if the TBM could be re-used immediately or in a reasonable time frame for constructing the next reach of the tunnel. In such cases, the disruption caused by retrieval from the street may be justified."
· Metro Board approves final environmental study for Westside Subway Extension [The Source]