Will rail station work be H’w’d minefield?

To mine or not to mine–that is the question the Rail Construction Corp. is asking as it contemplates how to build the Metro Rail station at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Since the RCC had previously decided that the station would be mined, thus avoiding traffic disruption at one of the city’s busiest intersections, this possible change of mind has angered Hollywood’s business community.

“We’ve already taken a stand that the station should be mined,” said Leron Gubler, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce head.

Gubler said the Chamber’s constituents have expressed concern about how above-ground construction would impact traffic and redevelopment in Hollywood.

Current Metro Rail plans call for three stations to be located along Hollywood Boulevard: at Western, Argyle and Highland. The Highland plan is the only one that has yet to be completed. A final decision is due next month.

Meanwhile, Robert Nudelman, a community activist, said the RCC’s proposal to give up plans to mine the Highland station shows that “they have yet to keep their word.

“It’s just like what they’ve done in downtown Los Angeles and along Wilshire, ” Nudelman said. “They promise all these wonderful things and then turn around and say they can’t do it.”

Ed McSpedon, RCC prexy, said the proposal to do a “cut-and-cover” operation, as opposed to mining the station, is still only being considered at the staff level. Cut-and-cover construction means that the RCC would do the work from above ground, cutting into the intersection and covering the holes with large timber planks.

“What we’re trying to come up with is a better overall construction mitigation plan for Hollywood,” McSpedon said. “A mining operation would mitigate certain impacts to the area, but we have an opportunity to speed up the entire process if we do it cut-and-cover.”

One problem: The RCC, already millions of dollars over budget on the entire Metro Rail project, is looking for ways to cut costs. It would cost an extra $ 20 million to mine the Highland station.

To critics who say those cost savings would come at the expense of businesses along Hollywood near Highland, McSpedon says those savings would be incorporated into a more comprehensive mitigation plan for Hollywood.

“We’re talking about construction that would be a one-time situation,” McSpedon said. “And in terms of impact to the area, they would be short-term.

“But we’re trying to be as responsive to people in the area as we can be,” he said. “And we think that there may be other ways to construct that station than to do a time-consuming, more costly, mining operation. After all, we want to complete it sooner and be out of the area.”

Yet the main problem, as McSpedon realizes, is that Highland is one of L.A.’s busiest streets.

“Anything we do will have to cause minimal disruption to the traffic flow there,” he said.

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