This has been a busy week for Metro updates. First, on Wednesday, May 5, the agency provided its quarterly update on construction of the Purple (D) Line Subway Extension, and then on Thursday, May 6, it held the second in a series of three public “scoping” meetings to collect information what to study for its upcoming Environmental Impact Report process for the northern extension of its Crenshaw light rail line. Both briefings provided some news and a good overall look at the state of each project.
Purple (D) Line Extension Quarterly Construction Update
The two most noteworthy pieces of news from the Purple Line update were on both the positive and negative sides of the spectrum. First, on the positive side, Scott Donohue, representing Purple Line Section 1’s design/build contractor Skanska Traylor Shea, reported that both Section 1 tunnel boring machines, Elsie and Soyeon, have reached the La Cienega station box (they’ve been making their way west from Western and Wilshire since last year), and Elsie has finished her journey, while Soyeon is about 99% of the way to her destination and will finish very soon. This is “very good news, a very big milestone for this project,” said Donohue.
At the same time, however, Metro Community Relations Manager Marlon Walker reported that Section 1’s opening date has slipped a bit, from the originally-planned 4th quarter of 2023 to sometime in 2024. This is due, he said, to the “anomaly” – previously reported to be a large piece of old metal – that construction crews discovered underground in the path of the tunnel boring machines near La Cienega Blvd. earlier this year. Investigating and mitigating the obstruction added several months to the construction schedule. Walker reported, though, that the slowdown only affects Section 1 of the project, and Sections 2 (La Cienega to Century City) and 3 (Century City to Westwood) are still on schedule for their originally-planned openings in 2025 and 2027, respectively.
In the main presentations at the meeting, working from east to west along the various parts of the Purple Line Extension route, Metro Principal Community Relations Officer Ned Racine reported that progress is continuing on Metro’s new Division 20 Portal Widening and Turnback Facility, an expanded railyard for storage and turning of the new rail cars that will be added to Metro’s inventory to run the new Purple Line Extension. The facility is scheduled to be completed in 2023.
Next, moving west along Wilshire to the Hancock Park/Windsor Square area, Donohue reported that crews are still at work, as they have been for several months, on two underground cross passages that allow access between the eastbound and westbound tunnels at Rimpau and Plymouth Blvds. These work zones will remain in place through the rest of this year.
Meanwhile, closer to the new La Brea station, work is continuing on several underground “appendages ” (emergency exits, equipment rooms, etc.) being constructed adjacent to the station box near Orange Dr., Sycamore Ave. and La Brea Ave. Phase one of this work began last August, and subsequent phases will run through January, 2023.
Also near Sycamore, crews will begin installing a large new radio antenna, which will help the station’s communications room connect with emergency response services and other local communications networks.
And at the La Brea station itself, crews are working on stairways…
…and laying rails in the new tunnels between Western and La Brea.
At the Fairfax station, walls are going in…
…while work is also proceeding on several appendage structures adjacent to the station box. This work will require the continued closure of Orange Grove Ave., south of Wilshire, until next year.
At the same time, work on appendages near the third Section 1 station, at La Cienega Blvd., began last month, and will continue through 2022.
And work on the station itself is proceeding, too, with the curved roof structure recently completed.
Further along, on Section 2 of the Purple Line Extension, excavation is starting at the Wilshire/Rodeo station in Beverly Hills…
And two new tunnel boring machines, Ruth and Harriet, are being assembled to begin their journey from Century City east toward La Cienega.
Finally in the Purple Line update, Metro representatives provided an update on the Business Interruption Fund, which provides assistance to mom-and-pop businesses along the construction route that have suffered losses during the construction period. According to BIF Interim Manager Kyle Wagner, the fund has made more than $6.3 million in grants so far to small businesses along Section 1 of the Purple Line Extension, and $2.8 million to those along Section 2.
If you have questions or comments about any aspect of the Purple Line Extension construction, contact Metro through any of its various media:
Crenshaw Line Northern Extension Scoping Meetings
The other big local Metro meeting this week was the second in a series of three public meetings to seek public input on what should be studied in (i.e. the “scope” of) the upcoming Environmental Impact Report for the planned northern extension of the Crenshaw light rail line. Currently, the line begins near LAX and moves north along Crenshaw Blvd. to Exposition Blvd…but Metro would like to extend it further north to bridge the gap between its current terminus and the Red Line subway in Hollywood.
When the Crenshaw Line Northern Extension was first proposed in 2018, Metro looked at five potential routes:
After extensive study and public outreach over the next two years, the possible paths for the extension have been narrowed to three: one along La Brea Ave., one along Fairfax Ave., and one (a hybrid of two earlier proposals) that would veer west to La Cienega Blvd., Cedars-Sinai, and parts of West Hollywood including several major entertainment areas.
All three proposed routes would follow the same path north from Exposition Blvd. to San Vincente. Then two would follow San Vicente west to Fairfax, and would veer west again at Beverly to loop through West Hollywood. All three of the proposed routes would converge again at Santa Monica and La Brea, before making their way north to the Red Line station at Hollywood and Highland.
And there is also a new option on the table to add a short extension north from Hollywood and Highland to the Hollywood Bowl, as shown below.
According to Metro, among the alternatives, the La Brea route would be the shortest and most direct, with the fastest travel time from beginning to end. It would also be the least expensive. On the other hand, however, it passes through the least dense neighborhoods, with the fewest number of jobs along the route, and few other “destination” locations.
The Fairfax route would include more residents and job-rich areas, but it would be slower and more expensive.
And the La Cienega route would pass through the densest, and most job-rich areas, but it would take even longer to travel its route, and would be significantly more expensive to build.
So the upcoming EIR process will study the relative advantages and disadvantages of each of the proposed routes, as well as other factors that could affect financing, constructing and mitigating the local effects of the project.
Another factor to be studied is a possible above-grade section in the Mid-City area, while the rest of the route would be underground.
And many other potential environmental effects could be included, too, depending on the outcome of the scoping effort.
Metro took public comments on the scoping process at yesterday’s meeting, but most of the speakers focused solely on which alignment they preferred, with about 3/4 of commenters preferring the “hybrid” route through West Hollywood, 1/4 preferring the faster, less expensive La Brea route, and only a couple speaking in favor of the Fairfax alignment.
The official public comment period for the EIR scoping process (figuring out what should be studied in the EIR) is open until May 28, and stakeholders are invited to submit comments via email, phone, the project website, and social media.
Finally, another interesting bit of information is that the project, which will be funded with money from Measure M, is scheduled to begin construction in 2040, and begin service in 2047. But the City of West Hollywood and others have expressed interest in helping Metro find additional funding for the project, so it could begin construction much sooner. This is why Metro is working to complete the EIR process as soon as possible, with the final report to include a final route recommendation to the Metro Board by 2024.
If you would like to have a voice in the EIR scoping process, you can comment through one of the methods in the yellow graphic above, or attend the last of the three scoping meetings, scheduled for tomorrow:
10 AM – Noon
Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/
Meeting ID: 848 8036 3069