Fault Lines in L.A. Over New Subway Construction

Fault Lines in L.A. Over New Subway Construction

As residents of Northern California reel from the strongest earthquake in 25 years, debate rages in Los Angeles over how a buried tectonic fault might affect the path of a new subway line–or whether the fault exists at all.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) moved a station planned for the Purple Line in Century City from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard, citing a fault called the West Beverly Hills Lineament (WBHL). Critics have long suspected that commercial interests were at stake in the decision, and locals are upset that the new route will take the subway underneath the Beverly Hills High School.

In addition, the MTA’s announcement of the WBHL fault triggered an immediate legal requirement that the high school spend millions of dollars to investigate the fault–which, despite several trenches, was never found.

Now, a new report by geological consultants Eldon Gath and Tim Buresh explains that the WBHL fault may not exist, and that there may actually be faults near the new station site–which, they say, should be investigated.

The MTA had assumed the WBHL fault lines existed, they say, because they extrapolated from older geological maps of the area that turned out, upon further investigation, to be inaccurate. “None of these studies have found any active faults where they had been interpreted, mapped, and published by MTA, or any active faults anywhere else in the MTA study area. On the WBHL no faults were found at all,” they explain.

“The proposed WBHL fault zone started its life as a hypothesis, and became a foundational element for many structural geology papers, which led to it becoming an established fault, then an active Holocene fault, then an MTA investigation target, then a reason to relocate the Westside subway station, then a serious hazard for BHHS to quantify, and … it does not exist as a fault,” they conclude, citing several reasons for the error (original emphasis).

In contrast, Gath and Buresh say, reports that the new Constellation site is safe “appear to be based upon the same geologic errors that led to the WBHL mistake,” and more investigation is needed. In addition, “MTA has never revised, retracted or otherwise qualified its active fault map…Instead it has issued a series of reports or memoranda that have challenged the various new findings, though never with any new data,” they say.

The MTA disputes such criticism. Dave Sotero, communications manager for the MTA, told Breitbart News that while he had not seen Gath and Buresh’s report, the accusations they make against the MTA are nothing new.

Noting that the Purple Line extension was already in “pre-construction” and that arrangements had been made to move existing underground cables so that the community would not experience service disruptions during digging, Sotero said that the MTA had relied on the expertise of highly credible geologists and seismologists throughout the planning process. He referred Breitbart News to several memos from 2011-2 on the subject.

The third of these memos reiterates that “there is no place safe to build a subway tunnel and station for the Westside Subway Extension along Santa Monica Boulevard in the Century City area due to the presence of active earthquake faults.” It also disputes reports of commercial deals with private property owners in the Constellation area. 

Reached Friday, Gath and Buresh told Breitbart News: “That’s what MTA always says.”

Image: MTA


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