Big news day on the Wilshire subway front: In a Metro memo leaked on the Transit Coalition boards, the transit agency reveals that it wants to open the first segment of the subway extension to La Cienega rather than Fairfax. The initial idea was to open the first phase of the Purple line extension to Fairfax (with another station at La Brea) at or before 2019; the subway would extend to Century City in 2026 and the VA hospital, west of the 405, in 2036 (these would all open much earlier if Metro gets federal loans as it hopes to do). Now, mostly because of methane, dinosaur issues (and the resulting drilling issues), Metro wants to stretch the first segment out to the edge of Beverly Hills. This will have little effect on the full cost of the subway, but could extend the time until the first stations open to the public.
The Fairfax station is tricky because of all that methane gas and all those rotting dinosaurs underneath the area, while the La Cienega station lies west of the gassy spot:
“If the Wilshire/Fairfax Station serves as the terminus for the first phase, the fully enclosed tunnel mining system would be required for both the first and second phases of construction, thereby unnecessarily increasing the complexity and cost of the second segment,” the memo reads. “By terminating at the Wilshire/La Cienega Station, the fully enclosed tunnel mining system would not be necessary for the second phase of construction–only the first phase–reducing construction costs for the second phase.
More on the gas and fossils: “By shifting the interim terminus station from Wilshire/Fairfax to Wilshire/La Cienega, a crossover is no longer required at the Wilshire/Fairfax Station, thereby reducing the amount of cut-and-cover excavation in the vicinity of tar sands, elevated gas levels, and known paleontological deposits. By requiring cut and cover for a smaller area, fewer fossils will be encountered and less hazardous waste will require disposal. Additionally, there are safety benefits of reducing the amount of area and time spent excavating in the elevated gassy grounds.”
It’s not clear how stretching the segment three-quarters of a mile to La Cienega will effect the timetable for opening, but expect at least an extra year or two. It looks like some money–$88 million–will be shifted from the bus-only lane project on Wilshire to help pay for the extra $381 million needed to extend to La Cienega (getting from the Western station to Fairfax will cost $1.95 billion; to La Cienega, $2.33 billion). Federal funds will also be used, which brings us to the other big news of the day: President Obama included $50 million in funding for the Purple Line extension in his proposed 2013 budget (as well as $31 million for the Regional Connector line in Downtown), The Source reports. While the budget needs Congressional approval, it could be the first of many federal infusions for the megaproject.