Los Angeles subway getting $2.1B federal promise

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Associated Press

Posted on May 20, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 7:01 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal transportation officials are promising another big dose of cash to help expand Los Angeles' growing public transit network — this time, $2.1 billion in grants and loans to extend a subway line into Beverly Hills.

The agreements, set to be signed Wednesday, continue a rail renaissance in a city long stereotyped as too car dependent to care for public transit. Major construction would begin next year, making the Purple Line the fifth that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is either building or extending.

Construction of the three new stations and 4 miles of tracks from the Koreatown neighborhood to the eastern edge of Beverly Hills should be complete in 2023, Metro projects.

The total projected cost is $2.8 billion, and Metro would have to come up with the balance that isn't covered by the $2.1 billion federal commitment, mostly through a sales tax increase that Los Angeles County voters approved several years ago.

Of the federal total, $856 million comes as a low-interest loan and $1.25 billion from grants that the U.S. Department of Transportation agrees to include in its annual budget request to Congress, according to the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. While lawmakers would have to approve the money — projected at an average of $100 million for 12 years — this kind of grant is typically funded in full.

After reaching into Beverly Hills, Metro wants to continue under the city and end the extension at a Veterans Affairs hospital on the west side of Los Angeles. That would require two further phases covering another 5 miles and four additional stations, with an anticipated price tag of another $3.5 billion and projected end date of 2036.

Opponents of the extension have sued, saying the tracks should not go under Beverly Hills High School, as Metro currently plans.

An attorney representing the Beverly Hills Unified School District in one of those lawsuits said that while a federal court case is still on track, the district is also discussing with U.S. transportation officials the possibility of mediation.

The district argues that among other problems, capped oil wells under the school property could be dangerously disturbed by tunnel drilling.

"The problem is that the school doesn't have any place to go," said attorney Clarine Nardi Riddle. "This is taking a huge risk with the property."

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Contact Justin Pritchard at https://twitter.com/lalanewsman .

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