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Beverly Hills Approves Accelerating Subway Construction, Wilshire Boulevard to Close

1:10 PM PDT on April 2, 2020

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Last night the Beverly Hills City Council approved expediting Metro Purple Line subway construction taking advantage of reduced traffic due to the COVID-19 crisis. Starting tomorrow, construction will fully close a three-block portion of Wilshire Boulevard immediately east of Beverly Drive. The closure is anticipated to save Metro up to six months in building its Westside Purple Line Extension Section Two - anticipated to be open in 2025.

Wilshire Boulevard closure details - via Metro presentation
Wilshire Boulevard closure details - via Metro presentation
Metro subway construction will close Wilshire Boulevard immediately east of Beverly Drive starting tomorrow. Detour map via BH staff report
Metro subway construction will close Wilshire Boulevard immediately east of Beverly Drive starting tomorrow. Detour map via BH City

In addition to the Wilshire full closure, Beverly Drive (at Wilshire) will be closed for up to ten days in the next couple months. Short portions of Reeves Drive and Cañon Drive (at Wilshire) will also be closed.

The construction acceleration item was approved about six hours into yesterday's city council meeting.

Several councilmembers expressed concerns, including about noise and Metro's ability to re-open the street promptly. Though the closure could last up to three months, the city can direct Metro to re-open the street at any time - giving five days notice. If Metro were to fail to re-open the street promptly, the agency would have to pay the city escalating penalities.

Councilmember Mirisch, who described the acceleration as "making lemonade out of lemons," pressed for Metro to apply money saved toward financing an additional "north portal" subway entrance. For the Wilshire/Rodeo Station, the current plans include only one entrance on the south side of Wilshire. Beverly Hills is pushing for a second station entrance on the north side. Metro staff responded that there was "not an immediate savings" but that the current acceleration could help the agency "avoid cost overruns in the future."

Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero adds that the council's approval will allow Metro "to complete decking for the Wilshire Beverly/Rodeo station sooner than expected and will help us minimize future construction impacts to local businesses as they struggle to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis."

There are still a lot of unknowns. The six-month time savings is based on a full three-month closure, which would see Wilshire re-opening in early July. If the COVID-19 crisis recedes well before then, the Wilshire closure could be much shorter, resulting in less time savings. Right now, Metro construction has not been significantly impacted by COVID-19, but there is some potential that unforeseen events could constrain construction work. New York and Boston have halted much construction due to COVID-19; something similar could potentially take place here.

As of a community webinar at noon today, Metro staff stated that the full closure of Wilshire is planned for tomorrow, though, like everything these days, that timing is "subject to change." Metro also reported that, for the Purple Line Extension Section 3, Metro has already been working with the city of L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) to take advantage of reduced traffic volumes in the Westwood area to accelerate some lane closures needed for early construction activities.

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