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Subway to Sea Is Far Off at Best

February 16, 2006|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

The Red Line subway could be extended from Koreatown to the Pacific Ocean in as few as 10 years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's chief planner said Wednesday.

But the likelihood that a 13-mile extension would be built so fast is slim, she conceded.

"Would you bet your job on it?" Los Angeles County Supervisor and MTA board member Zev Yaroslavsky asked planner Carol Inge after hearing her offer the speedy scenario.

Laughing, Inge said: "No."

After years of being all but dead politically, the idea of expanding the L.A. subway system has become popular again with some officials and transit advocates.

Los Angeles Mayor and MTA Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa spearheaded a study concluding that tunneling through the Miracle Mile district would be safe. The finding eased fears that subway construction could cause underground methane gas to explode and prompted Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) to propose legislation that would lift a ban on using federal funds for expanding the subway.

But huge hurdles remain.

This week the MTA estimated the extension's cost at $4.8 billion. But no one knows where that money would come from. At Wednesday's MTA planning committee meeting, Yaroslavsky said he thought underground rail would be good for the Westside because of its population density and concentration of jobs in such places as Century City and UCLA.

But some transportation officials say they still feel stung by Red Line construction debacles in the 1990s, when parts of Hollywood sank and costs ran so much over budget that the MTA had no money left for projects in other areas.

"We'd be repeating the mistakes of the past," said Los Angeles County Supervisor and MTA board member Mike Antonovich, who said he would oppose any MTA money for a subway extension.

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