Big transit news in Los Angeles from the outgoing Obama Administration: the federal government is giving L.A. Metro $1.6 billion to build the second phase of the Wilshire Boulevard subway to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City. The money is mostly in the form of a grant but also includes a $300 million loan.
This rail project is the most important in Southern California — if not the western United States — given the densely populated nature of this corridor (most dense west of the Mississippi River). The project has languished for decades due to political resistance from those living along the corridor as well as the high price tag for a subway, as I documented in my book Railtown. That resistance has finally been overcome due to frustration with traffic and pro-transit demographic changes in Los Angeles County.
As Metro’s The Source blog describes:
•The money is for the 2.6-mile second phase of the Purple Line Extension that will run between Wilshire/La Cienega Station and Century City. Two stations are included in the second section: Wilshire/Rodeo in downtown Beverly Hills and Century City at the corner of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard.
•The first section of the Purple Line Extension is under construction and will run for 3.9 miles between Wilshire/Western Station and Wilshire/La Cienga with stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.
According to Los Angeles Times reporter Laura Nelson, Metro CEO Phil Washington also just made a big promise about finishing the entire line to Westwood/UCLA quickly, given the recent passage of Measure M by L.A. County voters:
Metro CEO Phil Washington: “Our plan is to do the entire Purple Line before the Olympics. … If it doesn’t happen by 2024, you can fire me.”
— Laura J. Nelson (@laura_nelson) January 4, 2017
It’s good news for the region for this long-overdue project. And it’s also important to keep in mind that this is partly about Los Angeles getting its tax dollars back from the federal government. Californians pay more in federal taxes than they receive, so it’s nice to see that money coming back for much-needed infrastructure. Let’s hope the new congress and administration keep that in mind when they consider federal spending going forward.
Transit advocates will now need to ensure that the project gets built quickly and under budget. The hundreds of thousands of commuters and residents along the corridor deserve it, and the rest of the region deserves not to have cost overruns sap funds for other needed projects.
But in the meantime, it’s an announcement worth celebrating, especially as a parting gift from an outgoing, transit-friendly presidential administration.