Thursday May 24, 2012
The action officially approves four new stations and alignments in Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood/UCLA, and Westwood/VA, adding the remaining five miles to the approved and certified subway extension project. The Board's previous action in April only approved the initial project phase from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega. The entire project will now enter into final design upon approval from the Federal Transit Administration.
On May 17, the Metro Board held a public hearing for the City of Beverly Hills to consider its safety and other concerns about the location for the Constellation/Avenue of the Stars Station in Century City that would require tunneling underneath Beverly Hills High School. The Board has issued a written decision together with written findings following testimony and the introduction of exhibits at that hearing. The report confirms the Metro Board's support for the analysis conducted by Metro's technical consultant and internationally recognized experts in seismology, geology and tunnel construction. The findings indicate that it is safe to tunnel beneath Beverly Hills High School, and that the presence of gassy ground or oil fields do not pose an unmitigable tunneling risk. Moreoever, tunneling would not impact the school's modernization plans or its function as an emergency evacuation center and that vibration and noise levels are within federal requirements. The findings also indicate that is not safe to build a subway station on top of known active earthquake faults on Santa Monica Boulevard.
The City of Beverly Hills' recommended diagonal tunnel alignment alternatives to reach Constellation Station that would avoid traveling under the high school were found to be not feasible during earlier project phases due to tight turning curves, multiple conflicts with existing and planned high-rise structures, deeper tunneling and station requirements and greater numbers of underground easements under residential properties.
Lastly, the Constellation Station will attract more riders than the station locations along Santa Monica Boulevard.
"The subway extension is a critically needed mobility improvement that will create a fast, frequent and high-capacity alternative for the hundreds of thousands of commuters who travel in and out of the Westside on a daily basis," said Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. City Mayor and Metro Board Chair. "The project promises to fundamentally reshape the way we get around the region by generating greater travel efficiencies throughout the countywide Metro Rail system."
Metro will now seek a Record of Decision for the project from the Federal Transit Administration. This would represent federal environmental clearance for the subway extension project and is required for Metro to move forward with various pre-construction activities, including awarding a construction contract.
The subway extension will enable passengers to travel from downtown L.A. to Westwood in 25 minutes and will generate about 49,300 daily weekday boardings at the seven new stations. There would be about 78,000 new daily trips on the full Metro Rail System as a result of this subway extension.
Under current plans, the project could begin construction in 2013 and, depending on the availability of funds, may be built in three phases: from Western to La Cienega by 2020, to Century City in 2026 and to Westwood in 2036. Metro is seeking to accelerate the project's timeline through Congressional legislation known as the America Fast Forward plan. Metro staff has also studied how projects may be accelerated if Measure R is extended by voters beyond its current 2039 expiration date.
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