Although I’ll be sad to see Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) leave (it’s hard to imagine that our district will ever have a member of Congress as great as he’s been), I still can’t find it in my heart to forgive him for a tragic mistake he made nearly 30 years ago, which for me eclipses all the good things that he’s done.
After the methane gas explosion at a Ross store, Waxman buckled under the pressure from the NIMBYs, and pushed through a bill that used the methane leak as a pretext for banning federal funds for subway construction along Wilshire Boulevard, thereby killing the expansion of the subway to Santa Monica.
To his credit, two decades later he said that if a panel of experts found that drilling would be safe, he’d sponsor a bill overturning his own legislation. The panel found that there were no concerns, and Waxman’s new bill, overturning the ban, passed.
So now the subway will be built, but sadly there are no plans at present to bring it all the way to the coast; it will stop at the VA. And it will be many, many years before it gets that far.
Had it not been for his bill 30 years ago, the line would have been built, and would probably have been completed (all the way to Santa Monica) long ago.
Why didn’t he ask for a “panel of experts” evaluation back in 1985, instead of pushing through the funding ban? If he had, people who now spend their time stuck in barely-moving traffic would have had an alternative. And even those who chose to continue driving would be better off because people who opted for the subway would reduce the number of cars on the road. So everybody would have benefited.
But, sadly, this never came to pass, and the way things are looking now, probably won’t. At least as far as Santa Monica is concerned. (Yes, the Exposition Light Rail will be here soon; but it’s a rather poor alternative to what the subway line would have offered.)