By Edwin Folven, 3/22/2012
Final EIR to be Considered by Board in April
The proposed subway extension under Wilshire Boulevard will have stations at Wilshire and La Brea, Wilshire and Fairfax and Wilshire and La Cienega, according to a final environmental impact report (EIR) made public Monday.
The stations will be among seven stops on the proposed nine-mile line that will run west from the current terminus of the Purple Line at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Westwood, ending at the Veteran Administration Hospital. The release of the EIR was the culmination of a study that began in 2007, and included input collected at more than 70 public meetings. The EIR will now be available for public review, after which time it will be presented to the Metro Board of Directors on April 26. Three public meetings will be held on the plan, including an open house on Monday, March 26 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at LACMA West, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., as well as meetings on Wednesday, March 28 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Westwood United Methodist Church, and on Thursday, March 29 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.
David Mieger, deputy executive officer for countywide planning and development for Metro, said the final EIR process studied what was determined to be the best route for the Westside Subway Extension and the best locations for stations based on ridership projections, as well as potential hazards such as fault lines or pockets of methane gas that may be encountered as construction occurs. Mieger said Metro and city officials are hopeful federal funding can be secured to build the $5.6 billion project faster, perhaps within 10 years, but that has yet to be determined. Funding from Measure R, the half-cent countywide sales tax increase approved in 2008, would currently enable the project to be built in three phases, with a completion date in 2036. The first phase would go from Wilshire and Western to Wilshire and La Cienega, and would be completed in 2022 using only Measure R funding. The second phase to Century City could then be completed by 2026, and the third phase to Westwood by 2036.
Mieger said the EIR analyzed underground conditions along the length of the proposed route, including hundreds of field tests where crew drilled deep into the ground and collected soil samples. The soil analysis is still ongoing, and crews were drilling on Wilshire Boulevard near Bronson Avenue and Lorraine Boulevard earlier this week. In the local area, the primary problem would be with tar sand and pockets of methane gas in the neighborhoods around the La Brea Tar Pits.
“Seismic activity is not an issue in the Miracle Mile. The main concern is the underground gases in that part of the corridor,” Mieger said. “We have done a lot of sample work, and the type of tunnel boring machine that we will use was specifically created for this type of boring. It injects a slurry mixture into the pockets, and then the materials are removed, then treated. This technology has been used in other parts of the world safely, and there will be all kinds of safety measures in place.”
Jody Litvak, a community relations manager for Metro, added that Metro encountered the same situation in downtown Los Angeles when boring the subway tunnels, and completed the project safely.
Mieger added that earthquake fault lines are a concern in the Century City area, and that steps would be taken to construct the tunnel in a way and location that will minimize problems caused by potential seismic activity. The Century City station would be located at Constellation Avenue, chosen because it is located farther away from fault lines in the area than the alternative site at Santa Monica Boulevard and Century Park East. Mieger also cited ridership data, that showed up to 8,600 riders would use the station on Constellation daily, as opposed to 5,600 riders at the Stan Monica Boulevard station. Additional stations along the route would be located at Wilshire and Rodeo, Wilshire and Westwood, and at the Veterans Administration Hospital.
Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesperson, said the EIR also analyzed the possibility of building the subway all the way to Santa Monica, but there is no funding presently identified for that phase of the project. He added that the EIR also studied the possibility of building a spur from the Red Line station at Hollywood and Highland through West Hollywood to the Westside Subway Extension if funding is eventually secured.
If the Metro Board approves the recommendation included in the EIR, construction could begin as early as 2013. For information, visit metro.net/westside.