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Incorporate old Pacific Electric Subway into expanding LA rail network

May 1, 2012

As slow as NYC is for building new rail projects; LA, which had eliminated all its rail in favor of roads, is really moving forward with both “heavy” and “light” rail projects. With all the new subways and streetcars being built, I noticed none had bothered to utilize the old subway LA once had, as I had thought at least one of these new lines would use: the Pacific Electric tolley tunnel through downtown. That way all the subways you ride in LA wouldn’t just be the new one, but rather an old one as well. You don’t normally think of LA in terms of old subways, and I had never heard of it for a long time.
The big barrier is that it was severed right in the middle, to build the foundation for a couple of buildings including the Bonaventure hotel. That was that interesting four-round tower building you would see on TV sometimes. That was the very first thing I went to see when I first arrived in LA in the Air Force (stationed at a base in the distant desert parts of San Bernardino county, not too far from Edwards AFB, where we did some military exercises once). I passed between those funny sharp angle shaped office towers you aften see (the Wells Fargo Plaza), on the way. I looked into it for my honeymoon four years later, but the Bonaventure was not part of the travel agency’s package, so we ended up not too far away on 7th St.

So I would say, if possible, build around the building foundations. Or turn the tunnel into a tourist shuttle for people staying in the hotel! That would be cool. It would go right from the hotel basement to closer into downtown, where it once had a nice terminal in the basement of a building that still stands, and was rebuilt as condos. I guess it could go the other way, as well. You can find out more information on it here:http://www.westworld.com/~elson/larail/PE/tunnel.html. This site: http://www.erha.org/pewst.htm (Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California) does not even mention the Bonaventure foundation being built in the space, but instead says that it was simply it was filled in, due, to a claim by the city that it was “unsafe” due to “incompatibility” with the Bunker Hill redevelopment project because “the tunnel lacked reinforcing steel, hence nothing could be built above it“. (While, “As a matter of fact, the Harbor Freeway, a defence system highway, was constructed directly over the tunnel in 1947, after U.S. Army and state engineers had determined that the subway was so strong that no bridge structures or caissons would be required”. This would seem to suggest that the construction was actually above the tunnel, and there should be no impediment to removing the fill-in. (Perhaps reinforce it to satisfy the city’s concerns).

(2012 adendum: I discover rather late, that there was a plan for something like this, that never materialized: http://web.archive.org/web/20060818060504/http://www.redcar-la.com/cmp/home.html)

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