After two decades of planning, debate and delays, transit officials are slated to decide Oct. 28 on the routing and station placement for the long-anticipated Westside subway extension.
Starting Monday night, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will host the first of five meetings to hear public input on alternative routes
Release of the project's draft environmental impact report Sept. 3 started the clock ticking on a 45-day public comment period. The meetings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sept. 27 and 29 will allow interested parties to comment live. Written comments may also be submitted through Oct.18. The report and meeting times and locations are posted on the Metro website at http://www.metro.net/westside.
The report analyzed five proposed routes, including a nine-mile continuation to Westwood, a 12-mile run to Santa Monica and a 17.5-mile option that would include stops in Santa Monica and West Hollywood. It also looked at the option of not building a subway or of increasing the frequency of bus service.
Projected costs range from $4.2 billion to $9 billion. Based on current available funding from Measure R, the voter-approved sales tax increase for a dozen highway and transit projects, and an anticipated federal match, the Purple Line subway could make it to Westwood or a bit farther to the Veterans Affairs campus, according to Jody Litvak, project spokeswoman.
Despite growing support for the project as one way to alleviate congestion, plenty of disagreement remains. One issue is whether tunneling might reduce property values by undermining houses or causing long-term rumbling. Perhaps the biggest bone of contention that has emerged recently is the routing through Century City.
The city of Beverly Hills strongly advocates running the line under Santa Monica Boulevard with a station at Avenue of the Stars, as Metro had long envisioned. But under an alternative that the transit agency unveiled a few months ago, the station would be moved a block south to the corner of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars, in the middle of Century City. The shift would require tunneling under private residences and schools, including Beverly Hills High.
"Santa Monica Boulevard is the one we'll be strongly pushing for, not underneath our homes or our schools," said Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad.
Ken Goldman, president of the South West Beverly Hills Homeowners Assn., said a local mass transit committee had unanimously supported the Westside subway extension based on a line that would travel down Wilshire Boulevard, then along Santa Monica Boulevard from Beverly Hills to Century City. The alternative proposal to move the station to central Century City riled residents, he said, and prompted many to assume that Metro had succumbed to pressure from Century City developers and landlords.
MTA officials have said one concern was that an earthquake fault lies under Santa Monica Boulevard.
Westfield, owner of the Century City shopping center, is one developer that has included a subway station as a feature of a proposed expansion project. "Westfield is supportive of the subway and is happy to work with Metro to accommodate the subway stop at either of the proposed locations," said Katy Dickey, a spokeswoman.
"No decision has been made," said Jaime de la Vega, Los Angeles' deputy mayor for transportation. "The Metro board makes that decision."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said he supports all 12 projects to be funded by Measure R. But the subway "is the cornerstone project of the mayor's vision to expand countywide transit," De la Vega said. "He thinks this is clearly the most important project based on ridership and alternatives for people on the Westside." De la Vega said construction could begin in 2012.
The MTA estimates that, depending on which alternative is chosen, 46,000 to 90,000 people would board the subway at the new stations on an average weekday.
The agency says most Westsiders appear to be on board with the subway in general.
"Compared to a generation ago or even half a century ago, it's really a sea change," Litvak said. "People have questions. They have preferences. But nobody is saying don't build the subway."