Subway meeting to discuss tunneling under homes

View Subway route from Century City to Westwood in a larger map

As planning studies continue for the Westside Subway Extension, Metro officials have scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday, May 18, to discuss how they plan to route the train between Century City and Westwood.

For much of its planned route, the subway would be largely under big commercial streets — specifically Wilshire Boulevard. But the area between Century City and Westwood is largely residential, as the above Google map shows, and a few homeowners have asked a perfectly fair question: what’s it like to have a subway built under my house?

Click above to see a larger image.

First things first: At this point, Metro officials have not made a decision which route will be used, nor have they settled on the final locations of the stations. There are three basic routes under consideration, as seen in the map at right: the route that is farthest east that is the shortest distance; the  route that follows Santa Monica Boulevard to Westwood Boulevard is the longest.

That said, there are a couple of points worth making. There is more public support for a Century City station on Constellation, which is in the heart of Century City and also would have a higher number of riders, according to Metro projections. As for the route, it’s fair to say that the shortest route is the less expensive route — which is not a trivial factor when it comes to building mass transit in the L.A. area.

Finally, there are also issues involving how the subway tunnels would traverse  the Santa Monica Fault that generally runs  right along Santa Monica Boulevard in  this area (a map is after the jump). In case you were wondering, the current subway in Los Angeles traverses faults, as does the BART subway in the San Francisco area.

So what happens if the subway goes under a home?

The answer, Metro officials says, is hopefully nothing. The current Red and Purple line subways go under homes and if there have been any complaints, subway planning officials say they are unaware of them. One reason that noise and vibrations haven’t been a problem is that the subway in Los Angeles runs at depths of at least 30 feet, although often much deeper than that.

The United States Geological Survey produced this map showing earthquake faults in the Los Angeles Basin, including one that runs along Santa Monica Boulevard in the Century City area.

That means the top of the tunnel is at least 30 feet underground, meaning the tracks can be 20 feet lower. Another reason is the soil is relatively soft in the L.A. area compared to a place such as New York, where the subways are often just below street level and surrounded by hard granite rock which can exacerbate vibrations.

Still, one good reason to attend the meeting is to view preliminary parcel maps that show the three different routes under consideration. Metro officials will also discuss what the agency does if a subway is built under a home — and, yes, one thing they do is pay the homeowner for an easement.

The subway planning team at Metro is scheduled to release the draft environmental study on the project this summer and make recommendations to the agency’s Board of Directors on issues such as the route and station locations in the fall.

Here’s a link to the “frequently asked questions” section of the Westside Subway Extension web page that covers many of the pertinent issues of planning for the line. The press release with meeting time and location is below.

Metro To Hold Special Community Meeting For Westside Subway Extension Project May 18

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) invites the public to a special community meeting on Tuesday, May 18 to hear an update on the proposed alignments linking the potential Century City and Westwood/UCLA stations being examined as part of the Westside Subway Extension Project environmental study now under review.

Since the station information meetings held in late 2009, Metro has further refined station and alignment details as part of its work on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Westwood United Methodist Church – Fellowship Hall, 3rd Floor, 10497 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024

The location is served by Metro Line 20.

Free parking is available below Belmont Village, the building east of the Sanctuary. From Wilshire Boulevard, use the Belmont Village driveway and proceed under the overhang to the underground parking lot. Park on levels P2, P3 or P4 and take the church elevator in the southwest corner of the parking lot. Signs will direct the public to the meeting room.

Special ADA accommodations are available to the public. All requests for reasonable accommodations must be made at least three working days (72 hours) in advance of the scheduled meeting date. Please telephone the project information line at 213.922.6934. The TDD line is 800-252-9040.

Metro anticipates releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report for public comment in summer 2010. The agency’s Board will consider staff recommendations in the fall.

For additional information, visit the Westside Subway Extension project web site at Project information also can be found at The project information line is 213-922-6934.

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