May 25--Despite vociferous objections and legal threats, Los Angeles County transportation officials Thursday approved a plan to tunnel beneath Beverly Hills High School as part of a long-awaited Westside subway extension from downtown to the Westwood area.
The $5.6-billion rail project will add nine miles of service west from the existing station at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to the Veterans Administration hospital near the UCLA campus. The subway will mostly follow Wilshire Boulevard before veering southwest near Beverly Hills High to reach Century City.
City and school officials in Beverly Hills have warned that construction could disrupt or damage the school, an assertion rebutted by Metro officials.
The lengthened subway line through one of the region's most congested traffic corridors is expected to "fundamentally reshape the way we get around the region," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who chairs the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.
It will offer "a fast, frequent and high-capacity alternative for the hundreds of thousands of commuters who travel in and out of the Westside on a daily basis," he said in a news release.
Last month, transportation officials postponed approval of part of the extension because Beverly Hills city leaders requested an additional public hearing.
At that hearing last week, scientists hired by Beverly Hills attacked the seismic and environmental studies prepared by Metro's experts. They called for the transit agency to take more time to study the area. One concern is that the tunneling could preclude future development opportunities at the school district property.
But James Dolan, a professor of earth sciences at USC who has worked on behalf of Metro, said before Thursday's vote that "despite all [of Beverly Hills'] wonderful new data, they came to a bunch of erroneous conclusions that we dispute in the strongest possible terms."
After Thursday's vote, Beverly Hills Unified School District board President Brian Goldberg said a legal challenge to the decision will probably be filed in state and federal courts.
"We have some very serious safety concerns that have not been addressed," Goldberg said.
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