Fears that the West Hollywood/Beverly Grove area could be left out of rail development for decades to come has spurred business owners and elected officials to seek ways to fast-track a long-planned link to the region’s growing network.

The link would connect the northern terminus of the Metro Crenshaw-LAX light rail line at the Crenshaw/Expo line station with the Metro station under the Hollywood & Highland shopping center, potentially looping to include such prominent destinations as Caruso Affiliated’s Grove Shopping Center or the Beverly Center/Beverly Connection, along with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and perhaps the Pacific Design Center.

The proposed link also could tap into a tourist juggernaut, bringing the ability to connect from Los Angeles International Airport to Hollywood and Universal Studios. It would bypass downtown Los Angeles and involve a maximum of one train transfer instead of the minimum of two transfers it now takes.

“Such a direct link between LAX and Hollywood and even Universal Studios would be extremely important for tourism,” said Jacob Jauregui, government relations coordinator for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Fast track?

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has the rail link on the list of projects to receive funding from Measure M, the half-cent sales tax increase voters approved in Nov. 2016.

As of now, however, the link to the West Hollywood/Beverly Grove area is scheduled to begin construction in 2041 and open in late 2048, roughly 30 years from now.

West Hollywood officials say that’s too long to wait, and last month the City Council there voted to urge the transit agency to fast-track the project for completion by the time the 2028 Summer Olympic Games open in Los Angeles. Councilmembers also put forward options for additional funding sources, such as a public-private partnership or possibly tapping into future revenues from taxing cannabis sales.

“If the construction start date of 2041 sticks, we would have rail systems in a primarily east-west alignment that aren’t connected,” said John Heilman, a West Hollywood City Councilman.

“That’s why this link would perform so well: it would connect to five other rail lines: the Crenshaw-LAX line, the Green Line, the Expo Line, the Purple Line along Wilshire, and the Red Line to Hollywood and the (San Fernando) Valley. The sooner we get that connectivity, the more the entire region benefits.”

Metro officials last month agreed to fund further study of the rail link and ways to speed it up.

Route options

Any move forward on the idea will require some major choices: how much, if any, of the link should be subway, and which one of five route options would work best?

Subway construction is more expensive than above-ground: the first 6.5 miles of Purple Line construction under Wilshire Boulevard is budgeted for a total of $5.3 billion, or about $820 million per mile, while the recently completed 15.1-mile above-ground Expo Line cost $2.5 billion, or $165 million per mile.

A key return on investments in subways: they generally are far less disruptive to surface traffic, major consider in the West Hollywood/Beverly Grove area.

There are the five potential routes ranging in length from 4.8 miles to 9.5 miles. All would start heading north on Crenshaw Boulevard from the Expo Line station at Exposition Boulevard and cross the 10 Freeway.

Four would head west briefly along Venice Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard before heading north.

Transit agency planners recently added a fifth option that would skip the West Hollywood/Beverly Grove area, passing through Koreatown to connect with the Redline station at Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.

“This would be the shortest link to the Red Line,” said David Mieger, the transit agency’s executive officer for mobility corridor planning.

Mieger said next month (July), the agency will release a more detailed cost-benefit analysis of each route alternative, as well as the subway and above-ground light rail options.

Nightlife

West Hollywood officials and business leaders favor the San Vicente Boulevard-to Santa Monica Boulevard route. That would go past Cedars-Sinai with its 14,000 employees, the Beverly Center/Beverly Connection shopping center complex, and the Pacific Design Center. It also would be include the longest jog along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood – with all of its shops, restaurants and nightlife –of any of the proposed routes.

“Our local businesses are excited about prospect of public transportation,” said Genevieve Morrill, chief executive of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

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