Cracks start to appear in subway boondoggle

At last the nonsensical plan to build a Westside subway is being challenged. After an Environmental Impact Report concluded that the rail extension would be pretty much worthless in reducing congestion, opponents of the proposal are becoming energized and supporters are desperately looking for cover. Give it up folks, this project is as good as dead. From The Weekly's Patrick Range McDonald:

Opponents called the subway a foolish waste, saying [L.A. Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa, [Santa Monica Mayor Denny] Zane and others were peddling a giant public works project to please unions and special interests, and that the $9 billion -- reaped from a half-cent county sales-tax hike approved by voters in 2008 -- should go to county road-capacity projects put off for decades, extensive bus lines to bring the region into the 21st century, and scores of less glitzy projects. The EIR makes plain that Villaraigosa's Subway to the Sea -- praised by no less than President Barack Obama -- will deliver none of his promised congestion relief.


Now, cities whose residents are paying taxes into the L.A. subway's cost -- but are getting little or none of their money back for their own aging roads, new buses or better transit -- are asking how Villaraigosa can justify a subway that's more PR icon than traffic relief project. Carson Mayor Jim Dear wants a complete rethinking, saying, "The plans should be revamped so some of that $9 billion goes to other traffic projects that will show a true benefit." Marsha McLean, mayor pro tem of Santa Clarita, supports mass transit but says her feeling now about the Westside subway is, "If you're going to have a pot of money, you need to hand it out to all areas who need it -- not just one."

Not to belabor the obvious, but you can't expect taxpayers to shell out many billions of dollars and suffer through years and years of inconvenience for a public works project that will not improve their lives. Several years ago, the Santa Monica Boulevard rehabilitation project became an unmitigated mess, but when it was over, Westsiders could see the improvement (or do you forget the torn up portions of the thoroughfare?). More from the Weekly:

At a surreal meeting Monday night, 200 mostly Wilshire-area residents crammed together to discuss the possible route where the subway tunnel will be laid, but Metro officials failed to correct residents' widespread misimpression that the subway would dramatically cut congestion. The troubling EIR findings, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, haven't filtered out to average Angelenos -- and Metro's David Mieger, a project manager, did nothing to set things straight. "We're choked. We're choked with gridlock," said Ron Fields, a writer who indicated he believes the subway is the answer.

If public backlash doesn't put a quick end to this politically inspired flim-flam, the upcoming midterm elections will do the trick. I'm not exactly looking forward to John Boehner becoming Speaker of the House, but at least he and his cronies will deep-six Villaraigosa's unchallenged claim that 30 years of subway construction could miraculously be squeezed into 10.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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