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Update: Federal Transit Administration Extends Public Comment Period for Westside Subway

Update, 3:10 p.m.: Congressman Henry Waxman weighs in, after the break.

The brouhaha over the Westside subway keeps getting more interesting ... by the prodding of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has agreed to extend its public comment for the multi-billion-dollar project to May 22.

"Given the importance of the project," writes FTA regional administrator Leslie Rogers to Beverly Hills Unified attorney Margaret Strand in an April 6 letter, "FTA will grant the requested extension of the FEIS public comment period."

That decision begs the question, will the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority do the same?

In an April 3 letter, Beverly Hills Unified School District board Brian Goldberg asked Los Angeles Mayor and Metro board chairman Antonio Villaraigosa to extend Metro's public comment period since the district was conducting more studies about the proposed subway tunnel that would go underneath the Beverly Hills High School campus.

That request was denied.

With the FTA's decision in hand, Beverly Hills Unified is now going back to Metro with another extension request.

Beverly Hills officials are heavily concerned that a Westside subway tunnel that goes underneath the high school campus could severely impact their plans to do a multi-million-dollar renovation there.

But Metro is pushing for a station at Constellation Boulevard in Century City, which means the tunnel needs to go underneath the high school campus.

Neither side is backing off, and a major legal battle is now in the making.

Metro spokesman Dave Sotero says the transportation agency "is sharing all the comments it receives from stakeholders with the FTA on an ongoing basis, and we will continue to do so."

On April 26, the Metro board, which includes Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, will look at the proposed Westside subway route. The agency shows no indication of extending its public comment period like the feds.

Update, 3:10 p.m: Congressman Henry Waxman, a powerful and influential figure in California's Congressional delegation, has sent a letter to Metro Chief Executive Officer Arthur Leahy, asking the agency to carefully consider Beverly Hills officials' safety concerns for the Westside subway.

In the past, Waxman has been cautious in taking sides in the Beverly Hills fracas, but he ends his three-paragraph letter dated April 12 with this sentence: "I would urge the Metro Board to only choose a route that would require tunneling under the school if there is a definitive conclusion that it is the safest alternative."

In the same letter, Waxman urges Metro to seriously consider studies Beverly Hills officials have commissioned to examine a subway tunnel underneath the Beverly Hills High School campus.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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