The long-awaited opening of the Metro Red Line extension from Hollywood to North Hollywood has been set for June 24, transit officials announced Monday, and plans are in the works for a major arts festival to greet those who ride the subway system that weekend.
Subway stations in North Hollywood, Universal City and Hollywood/Highland will open on that day as part of a 6.3-mile extension that will link the San Fernando Valley with Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles.
"We've all been waiting with bated breath for years for this to happen," said Lorretta Dash, president of the Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. "We think it will bring many more people into the community and make it easier for people in the Valley to go downtown."
The chamber and other groups have set this year's North Hollywood International Theater and Arts Festival for the weekend of June 24 to coincide with the subway opening. The festival will be centered on a stretch of Lankershim Boulevard adjacent to the subway station.
The North Hollywood extension, which includes twin tunnels through the Santa Monica Mountains, is coming in within its $1.4-billion budget and six months ahead of the deadline set by the federal government, said Marc Littman, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
All 17.4 miles of the $4.6 billion subway system linking Union Station and downtown Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley will be in operation once the last three stations open.
In all, adding surface rail lines, the Metro Rail system will have nearly 60 miles of rail in service and 50 stations, including two light rail lines--the Blue Line from Los Angeles to Long Beach and the Green Line from Norwalk to El Segundo.
"This latest expansion of the Metro Rail system will give the transit-dependent, commuters, tourists and others access to major job centers, government, schools, hospitals, shopping, sports, entertainment and cultural venues throughout Los Angeles County," MTA Chairwoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said in a statement.
MTA directors have authorized late-night subway service from April to September to allow riders to attend events at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Music Center and other venues.
The MTA also announced it is debuting its new Metro Rapid bus system June 24, sending special buses along Ventura Boulevard in the Valley and Wilshire Boulevard to help commuters and others connect with the subway system.
To distinguish the service from its regular buses, the specially painted red-and-white rapid buses will feature fewer stops and special equipment that extends green lights to speed the movement of the natural-gas powered vehicles.