Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Purple Line TBMs Keep on Tunneling

Tunnel Boring Machine at work under Wilshire Blvd. heading east to Western Avenue (photo from Stantec)

Work on the Metro’s Purple Line Extension — likely to be renamed a letter according to a plan approved by Metro’s board last week— is largely happening underground.

Back in 2015, at the beginning of the project, Metro’s contractors assured us they would only disrupt life at the surface for a short time, and then they would submerge beneath the street and all their work would go largely unnoticed by Los Angelenos going about their business at the street level.

They were right, though there are still plenty of telltale signs aboveground that something enormous is happening beneath our neighborhoods. For example, there are still visible construction crews in some intersections, and the staging areas are very active with trucks removing tons of dirt during the very wee hours of the morning.

Last month, we spoke to Paul Ryan, administrative service manager for Stantec, the construction management support services consultant working with Metro on Section 1 of the three-section Purple Line Extension.

“To the average driver on Wilshire, most of the work is happening under the ground,” said Ryan. “But it’s quite a large project and construction will continue until at least 2022.”

In April Metro introduced its two tunnel boring machines (TBMs)—named Elsie and Soyeon—which are currently at work on their approximately two year journey to bore out the tunnels, starting with the segment from the new Wilshire/La Brea Station toward the Wilshire and Wester station. Once that leg is complete, the TBMs will be dismantled, returned to La Brea and set to go in the other direction to complete the tunneling phase of the project.

According to Ryan, the TBMs progress about 50 feet per day. At that rate, the process is should take about two years to complete the tunnels from La Brea to Western.

Ryan loves this work. As a 28 year resident, he said he’s excited to be part of one of the region’s largest infrastructure projects since the construction of the freeways.  And, as the construction manager, he gets to hire local construction workers, many who are offered apprenticeships to learn how to do the work.

Stantec is also working on the Crenshaw/LAX Corridor project ( one of the most complex transit projects in LA history), as well as design for the new Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station Improvement project (which will expand and provide a more efficient passenger experience at one of LA’s busiest Metro stations), and design of the new Glendale Beeline Maintenance Facility (which will better support the City of Glendale’s growing transit fleet).

“I love this work. It’s such a wonderful project and Los Angelenos are going to benefit from this for many years to come,” said Ryan. “We hope you won’t think of it as an inconvenience but rather an investment in our future.”

The Purple Line Extension will eventually provide an alternative for commuters to travel between downtown Los Angeles, the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City, and Westwood, where stations will be near UCLA and the VA Hospital. From the current terminus at Wilshire/Western, the Purple Line Extension will extend westward for about nine miles and add seven new stations.  Currently under construction are the three new Purple Line stations at Wilshire and La Cienega, Wilshire and Fairfax, and Wilshire and La Brea.  Those three stations are scheduled to open in 2023.


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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