At its quarterly community update meeting last Thursday, July 19, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Metro’s news about Purple Line subway construction was minimal, but generally good: everything is proceeding on schedule for the planned 2023 opening of Section 1 of the Purple Line extension along Wilshire Blvd., from Western Ave. to La Cienega Blvd. (Also, Section 2, from La Cienega to Constellation Ave., in Century City, will open as scheduled in 2025, and Section 3, from Constellation to the V.A. Hospital in West LA, will open in 2026…so all three segments will be fully operational before the 2028 Summer Olympics.)
At the meeting, Metro representatives reported on what’s going on right now at each of the major intersections along Section 1, and what it will mean for the community in the next few months:
While there is already a Purple Line station Wilshire and Western, the current terminus of the line, Metro is in the process of building a connector tunnel that will join the old portion of the line to the new westward extension. And at the moment, they’re also in the process of building a large shaft that will allow crews to remove the huge tunnel boring machines that will soon be making their way east to the intersection from Wilshire and La Brea. (When the TBMs reach Western, they’ll be removed through the big new shaft and then transported, above ground, back to La Brea, where they’ll be re-inserted underground for their westward journey toward Fairfax and beyond).
The current work near Wilshire and Western has reduced traffic just west of Western to two lanes in each direction (which will remain in effect through late 2018 or early 2019), and there will be some one-way closures of Wilshire, between Western and Manhattan Place, on weekends for the next few months.
Pieces of the tunnel boring machines have begun arriving at Wilshire and La Brea, where they are being lowered into the ground for assembly. Tunneling east toward Western Ave. will begin later this summer, at the rate of about four inches per hour. Billy Parent, representing Metro’s design-build contractor, Skanska-Traylor-Shea, said neighbors may notice, during this process, that construction deliveries will be starting to use a new, wider gate to access Metro’s staging yard on the south side of Wilshire, between La Brea and Detroit Street. The new gate is on Detroit, just across from the Miracle Mile post office. All construction traffic exiting the Detroit gate will turn north toward Wilshire Blvd.
Metro is currently in the midst of excavating the station area at the Wilshire/Fairfax intersection, and construction underground will begin this fall. According to the Metro representatives, soil at the location contains lots of tar, but – to everyone’s surprise – they’ve found almost no fossils (more were actually found during the Wilshire/La Brea and Wilshire/La Cienega excavations, which are much farther from the fossil-rich La Brea Tar Pits than the Fairfax excavation).
There won’t be a station at Wilshire and Crescent Heights, but Metro is doing some “investigative drilling” near that intersection, to check the soil before tunneling begins in the area. To facilitate the drilling, there will be some one-direction weekend street closures along Wilshire, from August through October.
Metro has just recently begun excavations for the Wilshire/La Cienega station, which will be the furthest point west in Section 1 of the larger Purple Line extension project. Metro crews are also doing some “jet grouting” – strengthening the soil by injecting it with concrete – just west of La Cienega, where the big underground station area will end.
After the main updates, Metro representatives also took questions from the audience, which raised a couple of interesting points.
First, one audience member asked what would happen to future Purple Line riders during power outages, which have plagued the nearby neighborhoods during recent heatwaves. The Metro representatives said that even if power goes out, people will always be able to exit all Metro stations via stairs. And to help people who may not be able to climb stairs, during a lengthy outage, the Los Angeles Fire Department is already prepared (after 20 years with LA’s older subway lines in operation) with more extensive evacuation support, should that ever become necessary.
Finally, another audience member asked about bathrooms and drinking fountains, which had originally been left out of plans for all the new Purple Line stations. Marlon Walker, Metro’s assistant manger for Purple Line community relations, said thinking on those amenities may be evolving, however, and there may be some reconsideration of such services as plans move forward.
For those who missed the meeting but would like to review Metro’s presentation materials, they’re now online at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XaO8X-0suQcQ85xlbRwMfIz5pdfw7Dgn/view
The next Purple Line Extension quarterly construction community meeting will be held on Thursday, October 18, at LACMA.