The Metro Board of Directors’ planning committee voted this afternoon to accept staff recommendations for both the Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension Project draft environmental studies. The draft studies are scheduled to be considered by the Measure R committee on Thursday and by the full Board of Directors on Oct. 28.
There were about 20 public speakers on Wednesday for the Regional Connector, with most supporting the project’s fully underground route that was selected by staff as the project’s Locally Preferred Alternative. Many expressed concern about impacts during construction and reiterated requests made during the public comment period for business compensation during construction.
The staff recommendation to eliminate the 5th/Flower Station was also approved following a committee discussion on whether the downtown L.A. financial sector would come up with approximately $80 million to build the station. Metro CEO Art Leahy said he was unaware of any previous occasion in which private sector funding was provided to build a station on the Metro system.
The planning committee also approved the draft study and recommended Wilshire/Western to Westwood/VA Hospital alternative for the Westside Subway project. That included considering both the Santa Monica Boulevard and Constellation station options in Century City in the final environmental study. This decision came at the chagrin of Beverly Hills stakeholders, several of whom asked that the Constellation Station option be stricken from further study because of safety concerns and fears that the option would tunnel under Beverly Hills High School and limit future school modernization efforts.
Following 15 minutes of testimony from Beverly Hills constituents, Board Director Zev Yaroslavsky added a motion directing Metro staff to fully explore the risks of tunneling under Beverly Hills High School, including noise, vibration, risks to oil wells, use of the school as an emergency evacuation center and other issues, as well as to continue to work closely with the community and provide info from the analysis as it becomes available.
Yaroslavsky said he understood the concerns of the Beverly Hills community, but said he didn’t want to “deep six” that option without more study being done to address the community’s concerns. But he also said that he wouldn’t support the Constellation station if safety concerns were not addressed. “I think we need geotechnical evidence, and we can get that,” he said.
Referring to the community’s school modernization plans, Yaroslavsky said, “If there are ways to build our project in a way that doesn’t conflict with them, that should be the guidepost for moving forward. “
The Measure R committee on Thursday may also have recommendations on both projects to pass on to the full board next week.