10040Beverly Hills Wants Red Line Extension
- Nov 27, 2006
> Beverly Hills doesn't want to miss the subway
> By Jean Guccione
> Times Staff Writer
> November 27, 2006
> Beverly Hills officials, sensing that a subway to the sea is
> inevitable, want to ensure the train doesn't pass them by.
> They are preparing to select a route and two station locations to
> best serve residents, as well as business owners and their employees.
> It doesn't seem to matter that the city has little say over the
> path of the proposed 13-mile subway that would travel between
> downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Or that the Los Angeles
> County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which would design,
> build and operate the subway, is still at least a year or two away
> from picking the route.
> Forget, too, that no money has been set aside for the $5-billion
> project. Or that using federal funds to tunnel under Wilshire
> Boulevard still is illegal.
> Beverly Hills residents, some of whom once opposed a subway, may be
> set to endorse a Wilshire Boulevard route from Western Avenue that
> would include one station at La Cienega Boulevard, and another
> between Beverly and Rodeo drives.
> At community meetings, city leaders have confronted residents'
> fears of subway crime and potential terrorism. They warn naysayers
> that, without a subway, traffic on the Westside will only get worse.
> "There is an incredible sea change of attitude from resistance to
> support for the subway," said Allan Alexander, a former Beverly
> Hills mayor who co-chairs the city's mass transit panel.
> Mayor Steve Webb is leading the charge.
> He's trying to put Beverly Hills in the best position to lobby
> federal, state and local officials for the money needed to build
> the rail line and to make sure it goes through his city.
> Webb directed Alexander's subway study committee to "determine
> what's in our best interest."
> The subway study committee's tentative endorsement of the route
> through the city is to be finalized next month and sent to the City
> Council for consideration at its January meeting.
> A consultant hired by Beverly Hills said Wilshire Boulevard was
> chosen because it is surrounded by high-density residential and
> commercial development. It is the county's most heavily traveled
> transit corridor, according to the MTA.
> The committee considered but rejected a route along Santa Monica
> Boulevard from the subway's Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue
> Last year, during his campaign for Los Angeles mayor, then-City
> Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa promised to restart the Westside
> subway project — more than two decades after it had been derailed.
> Longtime subway opponents Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles),
> whose district includes parts of West Los Angeles, and Los Angeles
> County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the Westside, now
> are working with Villaraigosa to try to complete the east-west rail
> But that's still several years away. First, the proposed subway
> must be added to the MTA's long-range plan — an essential element
> for federal funding — and given a high priority.
> Even with the MTA board's endorsement, the proposed Red Line subway
> extension faces stiff competition for construction money.
> It will have to vie with plans to extend the Expo Line from Culver
> City to Santa Monica, the Gold Line through the San Gabriel Valley
> to the Ontario International Airport and the Green Line from El
> Segundo to Los Angeles International Airport.
> Meanwhile, the agency's planners are dusting off old studies,
> dating to 1994. Planning alone could take up to two years to
> complete. The MTA board recently authorized a mere $100,000 to hire
> a full-time planner to oversee the project.
> That's all the money currently dedicated to building the subway to
> the sea. Efforts by Waxman to overturn a federal ban on subway
> funding along Wilshire are stalled in the U.S. Senate.
> Waxman introduced the measure after experts concluded last year
> that a subway could be built without risk of another methane
> explosion like the one that ripped through a Fairfax-area clothing
> store in 1985. Although no one was killed, concerns about the blast
> helped lead to the stopping of subway construction.
> There is another funding complication. In 1998, Los Angeles County
> voters, in a move led by Yaroslavsky, barred the use of
> transportation sales tax revenue for tunneling.
> No one is suggesting that ban be lifted. Instead, transit
> officials, including Yaroslavsky, believe local money may be used
> for non-tunneling parts of the subway project.
> Subway advocates are optimistic, especially with passage earlier
> this month of a $20-billion state infrastructure bond issue.
> But critics, such as the Bus Riders Union, argue that bond money
> should be used to improve bus service.
> To make it all happen, MTA officials, who rarely proceed without
> local support for regional transit projects, welcome the city of
> Beverly Hills' early efforts to rally support.
> "The seriousness and detail of their work shows their commitment
> for our common vision for improving transit service," Villaraigosa,
> an MTA board member, said in a statement last week.
> Alexander, a longtime subway advocate, believes mass transit is
> essential to conveniently ferrying many thousands of workers and
> visitors in and out of the city daily.
> "It will allow people to come to work in the city, shop in the
> city, visit the city without bringing more cars to the city," he said.
> The population of Beverly Hills, with just 35,000 residents, swells
> weekdays to 250,000. Nearly 28,000 people a day board buses along
> Wilshire Boulevard within the city's limits.
> "I'm hoping that by our taking the initiative in this regard that
> Century City, Mid-Wilshire, Westwood and even Santa Monica will
> begin focusing on this," Alexander said.
> Beverly Hills officials may still have to persuade some residents.
> At a recent public meeting, one resident fretted that subway stops
> create potential terrorist targets. Another expressed concern about
> transit-related crime.
> Overall, however, the tide seems to have turned.
> "Anything that we can do to get cars off of our streets will be a
> plus for the quality of the life for the residents as well as
> assist the businesses," resident Joe Safier said at a meeting this
> The business community also is on board.
> "Gridlock is such a problem on the Westside that it must be
> relieved, and we must be part of the equation," Dan Walsh, chief
> executive of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, said Friday.
> Chamber members suspect the traffic congestion they encounter daily
> could someday discourage visitors from shopping, eating and doing
> other business in their city.
> It also could make it difficult to attract workers.
> "We have to make it a piece of cake to get here," Walsh said.