October 30, 1992 - From the October, 1992 issue

Allan Alexander: Metro Rail Belongs on Wilshire

The Planning Report also excerpts a letter from Beverly Hills Councilmember Allan Alexander to LACTC Commissioners urging them to reconsider routing Metro Rail down Wilshire Boulevard to the West Side. Congressman Henry Warman sponsored a federal law banning tunneling in this area after a 1985 methane gas explosion in the Fairfax district. An earlier letter by Alexander to Waxman was excerpted in the June 1991 issue.

This letter is addressing the two critical issues relating to your decision of whether or not to proceed with the Pico/San Vicente Metro Rail alignment. These issues are (i) the alternative Wilshire alignment and (ii) routing back to Wilshire/La Brea if you approve the Pico/San Vicente alignment.

1.The Wilshire Alignment: I, together with many others in the community, have attempted to convince Congressman Henry Waxman and Julian Dixon to lift the Federal prohibition on Federal funding for the tunneling of Metro Rail through the so-called methane zone provided that a current study demonstrates that it is safe to tunnel through this area with today’s technology. Unfortunately, all our many attempts to change their position have failed.

It is extremely disappointing and frankly shocking in light of the economic woes of our nation and Southern California that a study analyzing the safety of tunneling along Wilshire Boulevard would not be undertaken before possibly wasting $200 million or more of taxpayer money by detouring the Metro off of Wilshire Boulevard to avoid the Federally prohibited methane zone.

How Henry Waxman can continue to take this position totally defies logic when the Environmental Impact Statement you are reviewing today for certification states conclusively that the methane concentrations on the alternative route to Pico/San Vicente are of the same level of magnitude as that along Wilshire in the so-called methane zone. Obviously it’s either safe in both places or not safe in both places. All of the analyses that I have seen, including the methane analysis of the downtown segment of Metro Rail, dictates that it is safe to tunnel in both places. I have to conclude it is politics and stubbornness that tragically leaves in place this very costly and irrational Federal prohibition.

At some point in the future, and it may very well be sooner rather than later, the day will come when this diversion off of Wilshire Boulevard will be scrutinized by the broader community and by some agency of government. The question will be asked, “Why did this costly detour off of Wilshire Boulevard occur once it had been conclusively established that the methane levels were the same on the alternate route to Pico/San Vicente as in the Federally prohibited zone under Wilshire Boulevard?” I would not want to be the one having to respond to that inquiry.

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2. Routing Back to Wilshire Boulevard. If LACTC is going to move forward with the alignment to Pico/San Vicente and incur the additional cost of this detour, it is crucial that LACTC returns the alignment to Wilshire Boulevard to La Brea to enable the Metro Rail to service (i) the highly dense office corridor in the Miracle Mile and (2) the County Museum complex near Fairfax. Thus, it is crucial that you design the station at Pico/San Vicente to permit an alignment north so that there can be a station at La Brea/Wilshire. To enable the tunneling to proceed to La Brea/Wilshire we must convince Congressmen Waxman and Dixon to lift the Federal prohibition on tunneling in the La Brea/Fairfax area.

Since the riots, an alignment returning to Wilshire Boulevard is more crucial than ever. If we are going to improve the economic and social conditions of those that live in South Los Angeles, we are going to have to provide them with access to jobs. Right now the jobs are in the Wilshire Corridor and they will be expanding as projects in this area already approved are constructed. In the Miracle Mile area alone are over 7.5 million square feet of office space accommodating approximately 50,000 jobs.

You are making decisions which will impact the City of Los Angeles for the next 100 years and beyond. Please, for the sake of all of the residents and businesses of greater Los Angeles, and for all of those who will come after us in the decades to follow, convince our federal representatives to make the changes which will allow us to return the Metro Rail to Wilshire Boulevard as soon as possible or better yet, help get the methane zone lifted and put the system on Wilshire Boulevard where it belongs.

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