Yes, train tunnels exist under schools and school properties

Metro staff have recommended that the Westside Subway Extension tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School. An assertion repeatedly made by Beverly Hills officials in recent months is that there are no schools or school buildings with train tunnels under them (here are a pair of examples, one from the media, one from an elected official in the comments section).

This is not true but the assertion keeps getting made in various forms. It is a topic worth revisiting, given the Metro Board of Directors’ hearing requested by Beverly Hills that is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Metro headquarters. The hearing’s topic: the possibility of Metro tunneling parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus.

The following are four engineering schematics from Metro’s response to the latest report by Exponent, an engineering consultant hired by the city of Beverly Hills. As the schematics show, tunnels for electrically-powered trains go under or near school buildings and property — and they do so in Los Angeles.


Esperanza Public Elementary School and Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in the Westlake district of Los Angeles are above the Red/Purple Line subway.

West Portal Elementary School in San Francisco is over tracks for the San Francisco Muni L line.

Rooftop K-8 Public Alternative School in San Francisco is over a train tunnel for the San Francisco Muni L and M lines.

The Northwest School, built in 1905, sits over train tunnels for the University Link light rail in Seattle.

There are rail tunnels and stations below schools in other U.S. cities, according to Metro. In California these include the Bentley School in Berkeley, East Sylvan Middle School in Portland, Ore., Jefferson Middle School in Washington D.C. and the Global Village School in Decatur, Georgia.

12 replies

  1. @Joe: Frankly, why would it matter whether the Field Act applies to a charter school at all if this is truly about the safety of school children? Is the safety of those children somehow less valuable?

  2. @Alika Not according to the drawing/photo above. The tunnels go under one of the buildings on that property, but not the school.

  3. There is also a Hospital atop the Sunset Vermont station, as well as high school children that live atop the tunnels in their homes i’ll bet. I’m glad that the BH people are being exposed on the misinformation they are putting out. Go Metro!

  4. I don’t know for sure, but looking at a map, I think there might be a subway tunnel under the Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.

  5. You claim that tunnels “go under or NEAR school buildings and property” which is much broader than the BH argument and includes examples outside California. Camino Nuevo Elementary is a charter school, not public, and does not need to comply with the Field Act.

  6. There is a subway tunnel (and station) under the Pentagon in Washington DC. If it is good enough for the Department of Defense, it is going to be good enough for Beverly Hills High School. Case closed.

    This whole hoopla is a great example of why some Govt positions are best appointed and not elected. The only reason this “controversy” exists is because certain BHUSD board members need an election year gimmick to drive up turnout for otherwise sleepy election and so they invented this hysteria. Now that they have been elected, they are held hostage by the mob they created. This is evident in their incoherent and ever shifting justification for campaigning against the subway. They continue to waste public funds on a fruitless fight that has no logical basis but to reverse their position and settle on common sense would surely end their political career.

  7. Thanks for this writeup.

    I believe the biggest part of the concern at BHHS revolves around elevated Field Act construction requirements for public schools, and how the tunnels will interplay with the Act’s requirements. But I’m not sure that schools are unique in that respect. I’ve heard that hospitals also have higher construction standards, and I’d be curious whether subway tunnels lie beneath them.

    For that matter, as I sit here on a high floor in a Century City office tower, I’m wondering why my building doesn’t have elevated construction standards too.

  8. Is there not a tunnel underneath the Young Oak Kim Academy on 6th and Shatto, which is right at the Wilshire Vermont Red/Purple line station?