As Metro subway construction along Wilshire Blvd. moves steadily west, local construction updates for Section 1 of the Purple Line Extension (from Western Ave. west to La Cienega), become simpler and seemingly more routine. And this may be why only about 10 members of the public attended Metro’s most recent quarterly construction update meeting, held last Thursday at John Burroughs Middle School. Despite the low attendance, however, the updates were quite thorough, for all parts of the huge construction project.
The first news of note, as has been reported elswhere recently, is that Metro is in the process of re-naming all of its rail transit lines, switching from colors to letters, to make things simpler as the system expands. So the Purple Line will now be the “D,” line. But as Metro’s handy new name graphic demonstrates, colored backgrounds for each line’s letter name will still refer to the original color designations, to make the transition easier for those of us who are still familiar with the old names.
The other big overall system news is that all three sections of the Purple/D Line Extension are still on schedule to be completed and open in time for the 2028 Olympics. Section 1, between Western Ave. and La Cienega Blvd., will open in late 2023, Section 2, from La Cienega to Century City, will open in late 2025, and Section 3, from Century City to the Veterans Administration facility in West LA, will open in 2027.
Looking at specific locations along the project’s route, Scott Donohue, representing Metro’s design-build contractor, Skanska-Traylor-Shea, said a street-level opening near Wilshire and Rimpau, where a work zone facilitates construction of an underground “cross-passage,” will be in place until this fall.
The large street-level opening at Wilshire and Sycamore will be needed until the third quarter of 2020, and local outreach is underway to secure permission for that schedule. Discussions are also ongoing, Donohue reported, on the design and placement of a large communications antenna at the SE corner of Wilshire and Sycamore, which will be needed for underground communications with emergency first responders.
And, finally, underground at the Wilshire/La Brea station, crews are now putting up “false work” to further form the walls of the new station.
Tunneling work from Western to La Brea was completed last fall, said Donohue, and the two tunnel borning machines, Elsie and Soyeon, are now working their ways west toward Fairfax. One of the machines is about half way there now, and the other is about 1,000 feet behind (the two are deliberately staggered in case there are any problems as the first one makes its way forward).
In the Fairfax station area, Donohue said, crews roughed out the ground floor of the station in 2019, and are now starting wall construction. Also, the temporary closure of Orange Grove Ave., just south of Wilshire Blvd. and which supports the excavation of several station appendages, will remain in place through June of this year.
Moving west, Donohue noted that although there’s no station construction at Wilshire and Crescent Heights, there is some water and gas mitigagation work going on in the area. There is also some drilling near Wilshire and La Jolla, to pinpoint the location of several old (and long capped) oil wells in the area. According to Donohue, this is “precautionary work,” to make sure none of the old wells lie directly in the path of the new train tunnels.
At the Wilshire/La Cienega station area, said Donohue, construction is about six months behind the current status at the Fairfax station (which is, in turn and by design, about six months behind progress at the La Brea station). Underground work near La Cienega is now in progress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Donohue said, with crews currently lining the station walls and floors with HDPE moisture and vapor-barrier material. They’re also currently installing electrical ducts and de-watering tubes to keep the area dry.
Above ground in the La Cienega construction area, Donohue said several noise-mitigation efforts are now in place – sound blankets have been installed around staging and work areas, nylon straps are being used instead of metal to pick up loads of pipes and other large materials, and construction vehicles have been fitted with “low-impact” back-up beepers, which are quieter than standard beepers. Also, Metro is working to make up for the temporary loss of some formerly available street parking. For the public, Metro has arranged free parking in the garages of the buildings at 8447 and 8350 Wilshire Blvd., and the lot where the old Benihana restaurant used to be located has now been permitted for Metro employee parking. Also, to help with noise mitigation at that location, no construction vehicles are allowed in the lot, sound blankets have been installed there, too, and signs have been posted reminding employees to be “good neighbors” to the adjacent residential area.
Finally at the meeting, Metro community relations representative Mindy Lake noted that Metro’s Eat Shop Play program, which provides marketing support to small businesses along the construction path, is promoting the Wiltern Theater in Koreatown this month, the Eleven City Diner in Miracle Mile, and the aka. hotel in Beverly Hills. Also, Jessica Spearman, interim manager for Metro’s Business Interruption Fund, reported that Metro has now awarded nearly $5.5 million in support grants to 212 businesses affected by construction along the Purple Line route.
Spearman also reported that Metro has established a new “measure of effectiveness” for the BIF, based on the number of BIF-beneficiary businesses that remain open for various periods after receiving their grants. According to the new figures, 99% of the recipient businesses were happy with the service…and 84% remained in business one year after receiving funding through the program. (The two-year survival rate was 74%.)
The next Purple/D Line Section 1 Construction Community Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 14, at the SAG/AFTRA building, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., at 6:30 p.m. All meetings are open to the public, and everyone is welcome to attend. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns for Metro, here’s how to stay in touch.