Beverly Hills May Be Ready to Campaign for a Subway

Sat December 23, 2006 - West Edition
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) This city of stars and celebrity shoppers wants to go underground.

A transit panel is expected to endorse a subway route along congested Wilshire Boulevard, where buses and cars carry hundreds of thousands of people daily through the city of 35,000.

Officials soon could recommend two station locations that would include the city in a 15-mi. “subway to the sea” linking downtown Los Angeles and coastal Santa Monica.

The subway project was stalled more than two decades ago but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made resuming it one of his campaign promises last year.

Concerns about potential crime and terrorism had residents here long opposed to being part of a subway system. But they appear to have been trumped by worries about congestion.

“Gridlock is such a problem on the Westside that it must be relieved, and we must be part of the equation,” Dan Walsh, chief executive of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce said.

“We have to make it a piece of cake to get here,” Walsh said.

“There is an incredible sea change of attitude from resistance to support for the subway,” said Allan Alexander, a former mayor who co-chairs the city’s mass transit panel.

“It will allow people to come to work in the city, shop in the city, visit the city without bringing more cars to the city,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

The transit panel is expected to finalize its tentative endorsement of a subway route this month and present it to the City Council in January.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority would pick the route but that may be a year or more away. In addition, no construction money has been allotted for the estimated $5 billion project.

However, efforts are under way to overturn a 1986 ban on the use of federal funds for tunneling through the area.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, pushed through the ban because he feared construction could cause an explosion of naturally occurring methane gas.

But new research has convinced him that tunneling can be done safely, and he has introduced legislation to lift the ban.

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