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Westside subway survives legal challenge from Beverly Hills

Knocking down one of the last hurdles for Los Angeles’ long-awaited Westside subway extension, a judge ruled late Wednesday that transit officials followed environmental laws when choosing a route that will require tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year, $13.8-million environmental review process was thorough and fair, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio wrote in a 15-page decision.

The Beverly Hills School District and the city of Beverly Hills, which sued Metro two years ago claiming in part that risks of tunneling under the school were not adequately considered, can appeal the decision. Representatives from the city, which has two federal lawsuits involving the subway still pending, could not be reached for comment.

Transportation officials said Wednesday’s ruling effectively ends a generation of controversy and studies over the subway extension, which will connect downtown to West Los Angeles and serve one of the nation’s most chronically congested commuter corridors. As currently planned, the nine-mile, $5.6-billion line, slated to open in 2035, will include seven new stations between Koreatown and Westwood.

Metro staff said in a prepared statement that the agency is looking forward to “working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills.”

Had Metro lost the lawsuit, the Westside subway extension could have faced years of delay and millions of dollars in extra costs while new environmental impact studies were completed, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said.

The route Metro has chosen includes a station near Constellation Boulevard in Century City, two blocks west of Beverly Hills High School. It will require tunneling under parts of the campus. Metro considered an alternative route along Santa Monica Boulevard but discarded it after agency studies found a complex earthquake fault zone in that area.

“The Constellation Station is located in the middle of high rise office buildings that house thousands of potential subway riders,” Torribio wrote. The Santa Monica Boulevard station favored by Beverly Hills “would require these same riders to walk a considerable distance to access the subway.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the Westside, said in a statement that he was “gratified” by the ruling. “It validates Metro’s decision to bring the subway to West Los Angeles safely, while serving the greatest number of riders,” he said.

Last year, the city of Beverly Hills sued the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation over federal grants and loans allocated to the subway, saying the project violated environmental, transit and administrative laws.

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laura.nelson@latimes.com
Twitter: @laura_nelson

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