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Westside subway project gets key federal backing

 Commuters wait for trains at the subway station at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. The Purple Line extension would start at this terminal.

Los Angeles County’s proposed subway extension to the Westside has taken a key step forward, with federal officials certifying that the project has satisfied federal guidelines for environmental analysis.

The action by the Federal Transit Administration allows the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to seek federal funding for design and construction of the subway project, which is expected to cost $5.6 billion.

The nearly nine-mile extension of the Purple Line would begin at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue and run west to the Westwood/Veterans Administration medical center area. The line would include seven new subway stations. MTA officials say passengers would be able to travel between downtown L.A. and the Westside in about 25 minutes.

In a related action, L.A. County supervisors voted this week to put a measure on the November ballot that would extend a half-cent sale tax for transportation projects, including the subway extension, for an extra 30 years.

Several supervisors had criticized the Measure R extension as premature and unnecessary; it was originally approved by voters in 2008 and wasn’t to expire until 2039.

But supporters, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, say the extra funding is needed for the subway extension, along with other projects.

"The environmental clearance puts us one step closer to our vision of a world-class public transportation network," the mayor said in a statement.

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Photo: Commuters wait for trains at the subway station at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. The Purple Line extension would start at this terminal. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

 
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