Metro Board of Directors approves route for Westside Subway Extension's second and third phase, including Century City station on Constellation

 

The final route and station locations of the second and third phase of the Westside Subway Extension were approved by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday by a vote of seven to two. Board Members Mike Antonovich and John Fasana voted against the route.

The approval includes, most notably, a station location in Century City at the intersection of Constellation Boulevard and the Avenue of Stars to avoid building a station and tunnel in active earthquake fault zones under Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro’s experts testified that building a station or tunnels under Santa Monica Boulevard would be unsafe.

The Constellation station will require tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. That is opposed by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

In testimony to the Metro Board, Beverly Hills city and school officials on Thursday both asked the Board to delay making a decision on tunneling under the school and school officials again threatened state and federal litigation.

Officials from Beverly Hills also alleged that the earthquake faults are not active. “You will not succeed and we will stop you at every turn,” said Beverly Hills Unified School District Board Member Lisa Korbatov.

Metro staff and other experts remain unswayed by Beverly Hills’ arguments. “The Santa Monica Fault is an active fault and there’s no extra evidence that is going to come in that is going to change that,” said Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who reviewed the project. She was not paid by Metro.

In response to a hearing last week requested by the city of Beverly Hills, the Metro Board in a separate action voted to adopt the findings regarding the reasonableness of the Constellation station and the related subway tunnels beneath Beverly Hills High School.

The findings, posted here, reaffirmed Metro’s previous position that tunneling can be done safely under the high school, among other things. The vote was 8 to 2, with the no votes from Directors Antonovich and Fasana. A motion by Antonovich for an additional study on the Santa Monica Fault failed on an 8 to 2 vote, with only Antonovich and Fasana voting for it.

In the past two years, Beverly Hills officials have alleged: that the subway tunnels would trigger underground gas explosions beneath the school; Metro moved the station to Constellation to benefit a politically-connected developer in Century City, and; subway tunnels would interfere with school operations and would hinder the possible future development of an underground parking garage at the school.

Metro staff, experts and consultants strongly disagree, saying: there are lower gas levels under the school than in other parts of Los Angeles, including downtown L.A., where there are existing subway tunnels; that ridership would be higher at the Constellation station than a station along Santa Monica Boulevard, and; that noise and vibrations under the school would be within legal limits, have no adverse impacts and that the tunnels, which would be at least 50 feet under the school, would still allow for a three- to four-story underground garage or other structure.

Beverly Hills also submitted three alternative routes to a Constellation station last week that bypassed tunneling under the high school.

Metro staff said they reviewed the three routes and determined they would require much deeper tunnels to avoid buildings and would greatly increase the cost of the project and impact residential properties west of Century City. Staff also said that the routes proposed by Beverly Hills has tighter turns that would require slower train speeds.

Supervisor and Board Vice Chair Antonovich likened Metro’s seismic experts Dr. James Dolan and Lucy Jones to “trained seals,” saying their background in seismology precluded them from drawing conclusions on the geology of the area and the engineering of the project.

Metro CEO Art Leahy disagreed and stood by the agency’s conclusions. Dr. Jones testified that she was not being paid by Metro and reviewed the project under her role as a seismologist with the federal U.S. Geological Survey. Dr. Dolan, a professor of earth sciences at USC, testified that even after he began his role as a consultant with Metro, Beverly Hills city and school district officials contacted him about possibly working for them.

The Westwood/UCLA station will be located at the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood boulevards. The Westwood/VA station will be on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, with an entrance just east of Bonsall Avenue, allowing for a very short walk from the station to the entrance of the VA Hospital.

The Metro Board in April had voted to certify the Final Environmental Impact/Statement Report for the project, which will extend the current Purple Line subway from Western Avenue for nine miles to Westwood. The first segment between Western and La Cienega Boulevard is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

The Board in April delayed selecting a route for the second and third phases of the project to accommodate a request for a hearing about the Century City station location by the city of Beverly Hills.

 

47 thoughts on “Metro Board of Directors approves route for Westside Subway Extension's second and third phase, including Century City station on Constellation

  1. Ultimately the lawyers are going to decide, and Metro will have to study the Beverly Hills proposed routes in detail anyway. I agree with Fasana that if there is a way to accommodate Beverly Hills residents, while maintaining the Constellation station which appears to have the higher ridership, why not? Let’s see how much additional time the deviated route will take, and compare that to the amount spent in lawyers and environmental studies trying to reprove the route. While no one wants to abandon all that work done on the original route, sometimes cutting your losses might work out. After all, it’s not like Beverly Hills politicians don’t have connections to federal decisionmakers who control the purse strings.

  2. I don’t think acquiescing to BH’s demands is prudent for Metro (or the region). You shouldn’t reroute an entire line because a group of people simply don’t like it. Bending to a group that is being resistant–without real reasons, at least according to Metro–sets a bad precedent.

  3. Steve, thanks for the update on the 30/10 (“America Fast Forward”) measure.
    By the way – what’s the latest update on that? To this date, the Westside Subway Extension did not receive any federal funds (as of yet) under this 30/10 plan, correct?

    • Alexander,

      Metro is working to secure a federal matching grant for the Westside Subway through the New Starts program. This is separate from the 30/10 plan, which would allow Metro to complete its Measure R transit projects, including the Westside Subway, much more quickly. 30/10 still depends on federal legislation that has yet to be implemented, but is hopefully in the works. An extension of the Measure R sales tax would also allow such an acceleration by making it possible for Metro to borrow against those future revenues.

      Hope that clears it up a little.

      Carter Rubin
      Contributor, The Source

    • Hi A the G,

      Correct. At this point, 30/10 (also known as America Fast Forward) is something that Metro hopes to get into the next multi-year federal transportation spending bill. Congress has balked at passing a bill and opted for multiple extensions of the last bill, which expired in 2009. The subway has applied for federal New Starts money — which is not 30/10 — and that looks like it will happen as final design and construction approaches.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. “We really need to start a forum where people can express themselves with less censorship.”

    There are some transit forums out there. You just have to look for them, and they do not get much traffic. It’s not a hot topic like Twilight or something.

    I would recommend the Transit Coalition Board. You can post whatever you want, but if someone disagrees they are going to let you know.

  5. Congratulations Los Angeles (this includes Beverly Hills) on the Purple Line extension. As as 3rd generation Angeleno, the subway is severely needed since the Red Cars were ripped away. My parents and grand parents tell me how convenient the trains. For the opponents of the project, stop being a bully. That means you Beverly Hills…..just think how easy it will be for your workers to arrive to work in your homes, stores and offices.

  6. I hope we can get the *whole* purple line extension done by 2020 (or maybe sooner, but I really think I’m dreaming now…). I know that will be a lot of work, but when I found out about the Expo Line opening I was excited and hoped it would go to Santa Monica and the Purple Line would go to UCLA. (I imagined the heart of Westwood not the bottom, but either way I’ll take it)

    I hope as congestion increases in LA more people will realize how important mass transportation is for us, but I’m glad to see that people have the same idea I had for both the Purple and Expo Lines!

  7. Pingback: Beverly Hills Unified School District Files CEQA Suit Against Westside Subway | Streetsblog Los Angeles

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