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10040Beverly Hills Wants Red Line Extension

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  • Richard Risemberg
    Nov 27 7:48 AM
      > http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-
      > subway27nov27,0,1906479,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines
      > 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
      > station.
      > 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
      > line.
      > 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
      > month.
      > 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.
      > *
      > jean.guccione@...

      Richard Risemberg