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REGION : Wilshire Red Line Extension Questioned

June 25, 1995|MARY MOORE

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority staff has recommended to the agency's board of directors that the MTA not study Wilshire Boulevard as a possible route for the western extension of the Red Line.

The staff's report, issued last week, is based on a consultant's research of the hydrogen sulfide levels that exist underground along the route from the intersection of Pico and San Vicente boulevards to La Cienega Boulevard. The MTA's board is scheduled to vote this week on whether to consider keeping the line on Wilshire as it extends westward from the mid-city area.

Current plans for the westerly Red Line extension would divert the subway from Wilshire southwest to the Pico-San Vicente intersection and, thus, avoid pockets of methane gas underneath a portion of Wilshire. The MTA already has discovered high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide at Pico-San Vicente. Both methane and hydrogen sulfide are potentially explosive.

The MTA is looking for a way to bring the subway system from Pico-San Vicente back to Wilshire without hitting more pockets of hydrogen sulfide. However, some community activists argue that the MTA should change its plan and keep the Red Line on Wilshire for the subway's entire route to the Westside--despite the methane gas problem.

Though the hydrogen sulfide levels are not as high along Wilshire Boulevard as they are at the Pico-San Vicente intersection, the staff's report concludes that the levels are significant. Thus, Wilshire "does not provide a clearly superior underground alternative [to the Pico-San Vicente plan]," the report reads.

But those who support the more direct Wilshire route for the Red Line, which would serve museums along the street and reduce a greater amount of traffic, call the report fallacious. They say the MTA's conclusion is a political ploy to keep the peace with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who oppose the all-Wilshire route. Waxman doesn't want the subway going through his district, while Dixon and Burke support a diverted line that would serve the Crenshaw district.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the facts [in the report] do not support their conclusion," said James McCormick, who heads the grass-roots group Coalition for Rapid Transit, which is based in Pacific Palisades.

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