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Subway could take another step forward in January

December 10, 2008 |  5:48 am

Subwaymap The long-sought subway extension on the Westside could clear a big hurdle next month when local transit officials may vote on moving forward with environmental studies of the project, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials. 

The agency has spent the past year studying whether a subway is needed and what route it could take. The so-called "alternatives analysis" is almost complete and will almost certainly be submitted to the MTA board for consideration in January, said Jody Litvak, a spokesperson for the Westside effort.  The findings of the study have been public for months: the subway is needed and it should follow a route mostly down Wilshire Boulevard before swinging south to Century City and then back north to Westwood. The MTA also said that if possible, a second four-mile line should be built between Hollywood and eastern Beverly Hills. (See map above).

--Steve Hymon

map: MTA

Litvak  said Tuesday that the study will also recommend that the board go ahead and launch the environmental studies that will probably require three years to complete. The MTA is also looking at consultants it could hire to do the environmental reports, an expense likely to run into the millions of dollars, Litvak said.

Until recently, asking the board to go ahead with the studies might have been a sketchy request, as the subway had no funding source. But things have changed. Voters last month approved Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for more transportation projects in Los Angeles County. The most expensive Measure R project is the subway, which is slated to receive $4.1 billion of the tax hike.

So when would ground break on the subway? "If everything goes smoothly and we get the approvals and the federal funding comes through, we’ve got about three years until the shovels are in the ground," Litvak said.

The subway isn't scheduled to start receiving money from Measure R until 2013 at the earliest, although the MTA board could change that. The studies, if begun, will also start answering some of the more specific questions hovering over the project: the exact alignment, location of stations and depth of the rail line.

In the meantime, it appears that subway supporters and foes can ink their calendars for a big vote after the New Year.