With transit ridership and revenue plummeting nationwide, the Beverly Hills City Council gave Metro some rare good news Tuesday night, agreeing to a plan that could speed up work on one of LA’s most anticipated transportation projects.
With most schools and businesses shuttered due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the city is temporarily closing a three-block stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, not far from Rodeo Drive.
The closure, from Crescent Drive to Beverly Drive, will allow Metro to expedite construction of the forthcoming Wilshire/Rodeo subway station, part of the second phase of construction of a subway to the Westside.
According to a report from city staffers, this could accelerate construction of the extension of the D Line (formerly known as the Purple Line ) by as much as six months, depending on how long the closures remain in place.
“This is truly a unique circumstance that will allow for minimal disruption in our city,” Beverly Hills Mayor Les Friedman said in a statement, calling it “an effective strategy in an unprecedented time.”
The city planned to close this stretch of Wilshire on weekends later this year, but local officials say closing part of the street sooner, and all week long, makes sense now that Los Angeles residents have been ordered to stay at home to mitigate spread of the novel coronavirus.
In a webinar today, project coordinator Yvette Ximenez said that the Wilshire Boulevard closure is expected to last between one and three months, but can be halted at any time by order of the Beverly Hills City Council. During the closure, crews will be able to work seven days per week, and hauling vehicles will be allowed to operate during peak hours.
Beverly Drive may also be partially closed around Wilshire at times, according to the agreement between Beverly Hills and Metro.
It’s not clear whether time savings achieved as a result of the closure will allow the project to wrap up ahead of schedule. Ximenez says the second phase of the extension, from the eastern edge of Beverly Hills to Century City, is on track to open in 2025.
Activity deemed “essential”—including construction—has continued through business closures ordered last month, and Metro CEO Phil Washington has said that work on new transit projects like the Downtown LA Regional Connector and the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail line is “not being impacted” by the virus.
The extension of the D Line is being constructed in three phases, with all three set to be complete by 2027. Combined, they’ll add seven new stations and 9 miles of track, bringing the subway from Downtown to the Veterans Affairs campus south of Brentwood.
Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero says the agency is “pleased” with the Beverly Hills City Council’s decision, and that the closure “will help us minimize future construction impacts to local businesses as they struggle to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis.”