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Metro Breaks Ground for Westside Subway Extension [Video]

Utility crews start digging to relocate telecommunication lines at Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, the location of the first new station.

Metro Breaks Ground for Westside Subway Extension [Video]

Groundwork preparations began Tuesday for the first of seven new subway stops that will connect downtown Los Angeles to the Westside via an extension of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Purple Line subway.

Dubbed the Westside Subway Extension, the Purple Line is being expanded from its current endpoint of Wilshire Boulevard/Western Avenue to a station at the Veterans Medical Center in West L.A. The line will travel mostly along Wilshire Boulevard through Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood with a completion date scheduled for 2036.

Utility crews started digging into asphalt to relocate telecommunication lines at Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, where the first new stop is located. Construction on the station itself is slated to start in 2014.   

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa applauded the 9.4-mile transit project at a press conference marking the project's groundbreaking, calling it one of Measure R's most iconic. Approved by voters in 2008, the measure increases the county sales tax by a half percent through 2038. It has raised $6.3 billion for the Purple Line extension.

"Once completed, transit riders will zip through Westwood and downtown [L.A.] in 25 minutes on one of the region's densest and most congested corridors," Villaraigosa said.

Metro's Expo Line was also funded by Measure R and will bring trains from Culver City to Santa Monica.

Metro representatives said no additional parking will be built to accommodate Westsiders who wish to take the Purple Line at these new stations, but the agency would work with surrounding businesses to provide parking.

"Believe me, parking operators are really good at finding revenue," Metro spokeswoman Jody Litvak said.

In attendance at the press conference was Beverly Hills Mayor William Brien. He said the subway is important for "not just traffic congestion, not just the jobs it will create, not just the jobs that will be created to maintain this system when it's done, but for our teachers and for our service workers who need an affordable way to move across the city in a timely fashion."

The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District are each in litigation with Metro over the placement of the subway in Beverly Hills. Both are fighting to prevent Metro from tunneling under the city's public high school. 

The first in three phases of Purple Line construction will lay a 3.9-mile route to the Fairfax Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard stations running under Wilshire Boulevard. It should be completed by 2023, according to Metro. 

Construction on the second phase is scheduled to begin in 2019 and will bring a subway station to Wilshire Boulevard at Rodeo Drive by 2026. The third phase is set to begin in 2025 and will see stations built at UCLA in Westwood and the Veterans Administration campus in West L.A.

Metro is exploring other means to fund the entire project in one phase by 2023. One such alternative was Measure J, which would would have extended Measure R's half-cent sales tax increase to 2069. The measure required a two-thirds vote to pass, but fell just 6 points shy of that. 

"Very few states, very few cities require a threshold of that magnitude, but I'll tell you that… we're working on plan B," Villaraigosa said. "Today marks a key step toward building the… 21st-century transportation system that Angelenos want and deserve."

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