After more than 10 years of studies and often bitter political wrangling, ground was broken Monday for part of the long-awaited Metro Rail subway from downtown to the San Fernando Valley. And if the ceremony was expensive and self-congratulatory, at least it will alert people to the fact that Metro Rail is finally on its way.
Now the really hard part begins. City leaders must find the money needed to see that the $3.3-billion project eventually links downtown Los Angeles with the west San Fernando Valley, despite the federal government’s reluctance to provide additional funding. And, starting next month and continuing at least until 1991, there will be significant disruptions of the regular traffic flow around the Central City as construction crews bore 4.4 miles of tunnel and construct five stations along the route between Union Station and MacArthur Park. At various times major routes into downtown will be blocked as work on the subway progresses. City Transportation Director Donald Howery says that his people are ready to deal with any problems that develop, and we can only hope that he is right.
In the next few years there will be much public annoyance and anger over the problems caused by Metro Rail’s construction. But temporary gridlock is preferable to the permanent gridlock that is inevitable if Los Angeles does not develop a more modern mass-transit system. There are already parts of the Central City that verge on constant gridlock, largely because of the number of buses that travel in and out of the area each day. Even the first segment of Metro Rail will help change that.
And, if the projections of local transportation officials are right, the 18.6 miles of Metro Rail line between downtown and the Valley will be the focal point of a regional transit system that Los Angeles has needed for years but never got built. Eventually the subway will be linked with light rail lines, busways and other mass-transit projects already in existence or in the planning stages. When that day comes, we are convinced, Angelenos will look back at the current haggling over Metro Rail and wonder how anyone ever had doubts about the subway.