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Mayor digs in for long haul on subway

By Edwin Folven, 11/15/2012

Groundbreaking at La Brea Avenue precedes utility relocation and tunneling


The first shovels were thrust into the ground near Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue Tuesday, officially marking the start of work on the Westside Subway Extension. City leaders and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) officials called it a “milestone” for Los Angeles.

Councilman Tom LaBonge (left), 4th District, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appeared in front of a mock subway car for the start of work. (photo by Edwin Folven)

Crews began digging trenches near the corner to start relocating telecommunication, water and electrical lines as part of a preparatory phase that will last approximately 18 months. Metro hopes to begin the tunneling for the first phase of the Purple Line Extension — from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega — in 2014.  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, joined Metro officials and transportation advocates in front of a mock subway car in a city parking lot near Detroit Street and Wilshire Boulevard to announce the start of construction. The announcement came at the future site of the Wilshire/La Brea subway station.

“Not so long ago, a regional transportation system was a fantasy. Now, Los Angeles is once again leading in transportation,” Villaraigosa said. “We put the shovels in the ground and are taking the first step to extending the subway from downtown to the Westside.”

LaBonge donned a train conductor’s hat for the ceremony, and said the subway extension will make a big difference for commuters in Los Angeles.

“It’s going to connect this great city,” he said. “When we get this built, you will be able to go all the way from Westwood to Pasadena with a couple of transfers. It’s going to be a great system.”

Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said motorists and residents can expect intermittent construction along Wilshire Boulevard between Western Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard during the preparatory phase. Crews will mostly work at night to minimize impacts, he said. A majority of the work will be around the new station locations, at Wilshire/LaBrea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. Exploratory drilling under Wilshire Boulevard will also continue during the next 18 months in preparation for tunneling. Sotero said the surface parking lot at Detroit Street and Wilshire Boulevard will remain open until the actual tunneling begins, but will eventually close and be used as a construction staging site.

“We are going to be putting the boring machine in at that location,” Sotero said. “First, we have to relocate the electrical wiring. We will be working with AT&T and the Department of Water and Power to get these lines relocated.”

If residents or businesses experience disruption in service, they should call the Metro construction relations hotline at (213)922-6934 to expedite repairs.

The 3.9-mile stretch from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega is expected to be completed in 2023. Construction will then begin on the 2.6-mile segment to Century City, which has a completion date of 2026. The final 2.9-mile section to Westwood is expected to open in 2035.

Sotero said the overall cost estimate for the Westside Subway Extension is $6.3 billion, with 75 percent covered by Measure R funding. Metro will use federal grants for the remaining 25 percent of costs.

Villaraigosa said the defeat last week of Measure J, which would have extended the half-cent sales tax increase from Measure R for an addition 30 years, is a setback for securing funding. However, it lost by a close margin, which gives city and transportation officials optimism that voters may support such a measure in the future. It also gives local authorities leverage in asking the federal government for funding, the mayor said.

“Already, some of the brightest people are working on a Plan B,” said Villaraigosa, although he offered no specifics. “Measure J needed a two-thirds majority, and we almost reached that. Today marks a key step toward building a 21st Century transportation system that [residents] want and deserve.”




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