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Thursday, November 16, 2000 |
Subway Line to Westside Is Urged in 25-Year Plan
Transit: Planners also consider expansion in Eastside, to Claremont and
more rapid buses elsewhere. In face of crisis, they cite no 'magic bullets.'
By JEFFREY L. RABIN, Times Staff Writer
Metropolitan Transportation Authority planners are actively considering
a certain-to-be-controversial extension of the Metro Rail subway beneath
Wilshire Boulevard as far west as Century City and possibly Westwood during
the next 25 years.
Extending the subway along one of the most heavily traveled
transportation corridors on the West Coast is among the options in the MTA's
preliminary plan through 2025.
The plan contains no cost estimates, completion dates or strategies to
overcome considerable political obstacles. But its inclusion of the Westside
extension underscores the difficulties the agency faces in coping with rapid
population growth, dramatically worsening traffic congestion and demands for
improved mass transit.
Los Angeles County, already the most populous county in the country,
will add 3 million residents over the next quarter-century, bringing the
overall population to 13.1 million.
Even with expansion of bus and rail service, construction of new
carpool lanes, improved connections between freeways, and other highway and
road improvements, peak-hour freeway speeds will drop from 34 mph to 20 mph,
the MTA board was told Wednesday.
The agency's chief planner, James de la Loza, told agency directors
that there are "no magic bullets" to solve the coming transportation crisis.
"We need to look at how we manage our complex transportation system,"
Contrary to popular belief, the Los Angeles region is already as
densely populated as the New York metropolitan area, and will become even
more concentrated in terms of population, De la Loza said.
The proposal to extend the Red Line subway from its current terminus at
Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to the Westside was never mentioned at
Wednesday's workshop on the long-range plan. But it would instantly become
one of the county's most expensive transit projects if the MTA board decides
to move forward with it.
Such a project would run head-on into a series of roadblocks, including
a voter-approved ban on the use of the county's transit sales tax for more
subway construction and a congressional prohibition on tunneling any farther
west on Wilshire than Crenshaw Boulevard.
The congressional ban was imposed at the behest of Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-Los Angeles), after a 1985 methane gas explosion and fire at a Ross Dress
for Less store in the Fairfax District raised questions about the safety of
tunneling through old oil fields.
That controversy forced transportation planners to abandon Wilshire and
reroute the subway up Vermont Avenue and through Hollywood en route to the
San Fernando Valley.
In 1998, Los Angeles County voters, concerned about cost overruns,
construction accidents and the MTA's record on rail projects, passed a
ballot measure that shut the door to further use of the local
penny-on-the-dollar transit sales tax for more underground rail lines.
The Westside subway extension idea is one of a series of mass transit
projects being considered for inclusion in the updated MTA long-range
transportation plan. Extension of the Green Line light rail route from El
Segundo to Los Angeles International Airport--an oft-criticized void--may
also be incorporated into the plan.
Planners also expect to see light rail lines completed from Union
Station to Pasadena and from Union Station through Boyle Heights to the
Eastside. Future extensions of the Pasadena line to Claremont and the
Eastside line are also contemplated.
The plan also envisions a major expansion of the successful rapid bus
service that MTA launched in June from the Eastside to the Westside and
across the San Fernando Valley.
But the primary mode of transportation in Los Angeles will continue to
be the automobile, and controversy is certain here too. The bitterly fought
extension of the Long Beach Freeway through South Pasadena surfaced again in
MTA board members will not act on the plan until January at the
A summary of the long-range plan shows two new highway projects,
including a proposal to bore a tunnel through the Santa Monica Mountains to
create a carpool and bus lane along the heavily-congested 405 corridor from
the Westside to the San Fernando Valley. That concept is being floated by
the city of Los Angeles, said Brad McAllester, MTA's director of regional
Local officials in the Antelope Valley are pressing for inclusion of a
new freeway linking the rapidly growing north county to the Los Angeles
Basin by drilling a tunnel through the mountains to connect with the Angeles
Crest Highway and by extension to the Pasadena area.
The highway portion of the plan has not been finalized, but numerous
improvements to freeway interchanges and on-ramps are being considered along
with continued expansion of the carpool lane network. MTA planners are
considering wish-lists submitted by local governments in various regions of
De la Loza said the plan will be constrained by the amount of local,
state and federal money available for building highway and transit projects
and operating more buses and trains.
The MTA projects that $12.6 billion will be available for additional
transportation improvements through 2025, although most of the extra money
does not become available until after 2010. A traffic congestion relief plan
proposed by Gov. Gray Davis will provide $1.8 billion to the MTA for new
highway and transit projects in the next few years.
Goldy Norton, spokesman for the United Transportation Union, whose
members went on strike for 32 days over a new contract, suggested to MTA
board members Wednesday that "this whole long-range transportation plan is
the height of chutzpah. . . . The longest-range this agency should plan for
is the end of this year." In the aftermath of the crippling strike, some
legislators are seeking to remake the composition of the MTA board, a move
that could radically change its priorities.
* * *
* Extend Red Line subway beneath Wilshire Blvd. from Western Ave. to
Century City and possibly as far as Westwood and the San Diego Freeway.
* Extend Green Line light rail from El Segundo to LAX.
* Complete light rail lines from Union Station to Pasadena and Union
Station to the Eastside.
* Consider extension of light rail from Pasadena to Claremont, Eastside
line from Beverly/Atlantic Blvds. to Norwalk/Whittier Blvds.
* * *
* Expand Metro Rapid lines along heavily traveled routes on Vermont
Ave., Crenshaw Blvd., and between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica
across the Exposition Blvd. corridor.
* Build busways on Wilshire Blvd. and in San Fernando Valley.
* Install priority signal systems on major streets to speed bus
* Expand MTA bus fleet.
* * *
* Extend Long Beach Freeway to Pasadena.
* Expand countywide carpool lane network.
* Improve numerous freeway interchanges and ramps.
* Expand highways in north Los Angeles County.
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