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Friday, August 21, 2009

Exploratory drilling completed for LA Metro extension

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Joined by local elected officials from Los Angeles County and nearby cities, Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the completion of exploratory drilling in West Los Angeles is a key part of the planning and environmental process for the proposed Westside Subway Extension, a regionally beneficial Measure R transportation project.

"Every day, 40,000 to 80,000 cars travel along Wilshire Boulevard, coming from all corners of the county. From Long Beach, the San Gabriel Valley, the San Fernando Valley, people drive Wilshire to get to work. Bringing the subway to Westwood will help the entire county get here faster, with less pollution every day," said Mayor Villaraigosa.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has conducted soil samples at approximately 70 Westside locations over the last two and a half months and has sent those samples to labs for analysis. The testing will assess below ground soil conditions to allow planning for the subway route and the use of drilling and construction techniques/technology. The testing is required to prepare the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIS/EIR) now in progress. The Draft EIS/EIR is evaluating all aspects of the proposed subway extension including identifying benefits and impacts once it is in operation, potential construction impacts, and identifying potential mitigations.

The subway project is expected to have major benefits throughout the region. The Westside has been identified as the county' second highest job density center after downtown Los Angeles. More than 310,000 people travel into the Westside every day from other areas. Together, the Westwood/UCLA, Century City and Beverly Hills areas account for about 150,000 jobs.

A Westside subway would result in dramatic travel time savings. Travel times to Westwood/UCLA, for example, would improve by about 30-60 percent from various parts of the region compared to existing bus and rail schedules. It is estimated that it would take about 13 minutes to get from Koreatown to Westwood/UCLA via subway. That same trip today takes 36 minutes via Metro Rapid buses. A trip from North Hollywood to Westwood/UCLA is estimated to take 42 minutes via subway. The same trip today would take 61 minutes via a combination of Metro Rail and Metro Rapid service.

At the end of this phase of the environmental review process next year, Metro will recommend a route, called a Locally Preferred Alternative that will include mode, alignment and station locations to its Board of Directors for consideration. The Board's approval is required before any subsequent phases - including final environmental analysis, final design/engineering or construction - could begin.

Metro is currently considering two build options for the Westside Subway Extension, including a Wilshire subway that extends the Metro Purple Line via Wilshire Boulevard and a Wilshire/West Hollywood subway that incorporates all of the Wilshire subway and also includes a spur from the Metro Red Line in Hollywood via Santa Monica Boulevard. A "No Build" alternative and a "Transportation Systems Management" alternative that involves efficiency improvements to existing road and transit networks is also being considered as a required part of the environmental review process.

Approximately 76,000 new system-wide transit boardings would be generated by the Wilshire Subway project to Westwood and 116,000 new system-wide transit boardings for the combined Wilshire/West Hollywood subway extension.
 Metro estimates the cost of the project to be $4.1 billion for the Wilshire Subway project to Westwood/405, $6.1 billion for the full Wilshire subway alternative to Santa Monica and $9 billion for the Wilshire/West Hollywood subway combination alternative in 2008 dollars.

The passage of the Measure R county sales tax for transportation improvements in November 2008 created a source of partial funding for the project of $4.1 billion. Metro will likely consider ways to leverage these funds, potentially as matching funds from federal appropriations, from public-private partnerships and from other potential sources to gain additional funding.

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