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.