The campaign to secure an extension of the Metro rail line through West Hollywood got a major boost yesterday with Metro agreeing to take the steps necessary to start working on plans that would allow work on a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX line as early as 2020.
In a letter to City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, Phil Washington, CEO of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, outlined several steps Metro is taking to make the Crenshaw/LAX northern extension “shovel ready” should county voters approve Measure M. Measure M is a proposition on the November ballot that would permanently increase the countywide sales tax from 9% to 9.5%. It is projected to raise $860 million a year, with $1.9 billion spent on regional rail and $29.9 billion spent on bus and rail operations. Horvath and Councilmember John Heilman are on a Council subcommittee working on the Metro project.
The steps Washington mentioned include completing a feasibility study that is currently underway by June 2017, proceeding with a study of alternative routes for the northern extension in 2017 and developing an environmental impact report on the preferred route in 2018. The extension would connect the Crenshaw/LAX line with the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station in Hollywood.
The northern extension has been part of Metro’s plan for use of proceeds from the Measure M tax increase. However construction of that project had been forecast to begin some time from 2041 to 2047, with other Westside projects such as a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass and completion of the Purple Line subway to the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center projected to begin earlier.
“Investment in bringing Metro rail to West Hollywood is exactly what our community deserves,” Horvath said in an email to WEHOville. “I am grateful to everyone who made the commitment from Metro possible. This is great news for anyone who’s ever wanted to get out of traffic congestion and avoid dealing with parking. Not only is West Hollywood the most walkable city in California, we are also on track to providing yet another transportation alternative for our community.”
In a message to City Council members, senior city planner Joanna Hankamer said that completion of technical studies by 2020 would leave the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line “well-positioned to receive additional funding for construction. Phil Washington has previously identified the types of additional funding opportunities that would expedite construction, such as a local tax measure, state and federal grants and financing, and/or public/private partnerships…”
It is not certain that Metro ultimately will agree to route the northern extension through West Hollywood. Metro’s original budget for the extension assumed it would run from San Vicente and then along La Brea Avenue on WeHo’s eastern border to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station, for a total of six miles. But Fehr & Peers, a consultant hired by the city, presented data to argue that running the extension from San Vicente to Santa Monica Boulevard for nine miles will better benefit West Hollywood and Metro by increasing ridership by more than 300%. Other options considered by Metro are running the extension from San Vicente to Fairfax Avenue and on to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station and ending the extension at the Wilshire/Vermont Red Line station.
However, Horvath said she believes West Hollywood will have an impact on Metro’s ultimate decision. “West Hollywood will have a strong voice in determining the preferred alignment, along with the All on Board Coalition and other community stakeholders, during the county process which is now slated to begin mid-2017,” she said, referring to a coalition backed by the city that is lobbying for the extension through West Hollywood.