DOWNTOWN L.A. — Los Angeles County transportation officials Thursday approved a subway extension that will take riders from Union Station to the Veterans Administration in Westwood in about 25 minutes.

The vote on the draft environmental study of the planned Purple Line was 10 for approval, with county Supervisor Michael Antonovich abstaining. He did not explain his vote.

The Westside subway extension — often dubbed the “Subway to the Sea,” even though it only has funding to stretch as far as Westwood — would extend the Purple Line from the Wilshire Boulevard/Western Avenue station through Century City and end at the hospital west of the San Diego (405) Freeway south of Wilshire.

Although planning on the exact location of stations and specific details of the route are still being studied, the project is expected to cost at least $4.2 billion.

The proposed route would include seven stations, with the line roughly following the Wilshire corridor with stops including Fairfax, La Cienega, Century City, UCLA and the hospital.

Now that the preferred route has been chosen — Metro officials had been considering five proposed routes — the agency will move forward with more detailed engineering and environmental studies.

According to Metro, the line could be extended to Fairfax by 2019, to Century City by 2026 and Westwood by 2036. That schedule could be advanced, however, under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposed “30/10 Initiative,” which would use federal funds to speed construction of major transit projects.

Metro board member and county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky asked that as study moves forward on the project, special consideration be given to the risks of tunneling under Beverly Hills High School, including the risks from oil wells on the property and considering the possibility of moving the subway tunnel to avoid all school buildings.

The draft environmental report on the project, released in September, found that the subway would enable commuters to travel between Union Station and Westwood in about 25 minutes, but it wouldn’t do much to reduce the number of cars in the area.

The report found that it would take commuters 13 minutes to travel along the Purple Line from downtown to the Wilshire/Western station, then another 12 minutes along the extension to reach Westwood.

It also proposed that trains would run every 3.3 minutes, holding as many as 1,000 people and traveling at a maximum speed of 70 mph.

But the study found that the number of cars on the streets in congested West Los Angeles would be reduced very little by the subway over the next 25 years, with the population expected to continue growing and many people still relying on cars for transportation.

The subway, however, would provide commuters an alternative to sitting in traffic, according to the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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