West Hollywood eventually could see some relief from commuter traffic in the future, thanks to the signing yesterday of a $1.25 billion federal grant to build the Metro Purple Line. That, and an additional low-interest federal loan of $856 million will make it possible to begin the first phase of the project, which calls for extending the subway line under Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to Santa Monica.
However the first segment of that line, which would extend the line from Western to La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills, isn’t likely to be completed until 2023. Construction could begin later this year on the project, which calls for stations on at Wilshire and La Brea Avenue, Fairfax Avenue and La Cienega.
In a presentation to the West Hollywood City Council and the city’s Transportation Commission earlier this month, the city’s Community Development Department noted that traffic has increased substantially in the past few decades on major east-west arteries such as Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.
On Santa Monica, there was a 30 percent increase (to an average daily traffic volume of 53,388 vehicles between 1988 and 2008, the latest year for which figures were available. On Sunset there was a 26 percent increase (to an average volume of 51,462 vehicles) during the same period.
In a report to the West Hollywood City Council, the Community Development Department stressed that the city’s location in the middle of a major urban area is part of the traffic congestion problem. ” Due to the City’s regional context, it is anticipated that auto congestion may continue to increase because of growth in other places in the Los Angeles region, even if no new growth occurs within West Hollywood,” the mobility section of the general plan states. “This is partly because new housing development many miles from the city will continue to attract more individuals interested in spending time or seeking employment in West Hollywood, or who simply pass through the city to reach other destinations.”
While the Metro line will not extend under Santa Monica or Sunset, in theory some commuters headed from east of West Hollywood to points west of the city might choose to take the subway rather than drive.
“Our lives in West Los Angeles revolve around traffic. Where and when we travel is largely determined by traffic congestion patterns,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro board member. “Extending the subway will offer commuters an alternative to driving through one of the most congested metropolitan street and highway systems in the nation. We can now see light at the end of the tunnel as the new subway will begin to serve the Wilshire corridor – one of the densest and most important commercial and residential sectors of our region.”
What’s still in limbo is the so-called “Pink Line,” which would connecting the Metro Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland station to the Metro Purple Line. A Metro staff report in 2010 recommended a subway extension along Wilshire Boulevard west, moving south to Century City then back to Wilshire and ending in Westwood. The staff report said a line through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills would be too expensive. A line through WeHo also has faced major opposition from some Beverly Hills residents, who argue that its routing under Beverly Hills High School would pose a risk to that property.
At the West Hollywood City Council on Monday its members expressed frustration with the lack of movement on that issue. Council members John Heilman and Jeffrey Prang recommended the city engage a lobbyist to push for a solution with federal, state and county officials and that the city create a campaign among local residents and businesses in support of that.