During our current strange days, it’s almost comforting to hear that some familiar activities are proceeding as scheduled, and in some ways even ramping up. That was the case last week, as Metro held a lunchtime webinar to provide its quarterly update on Purple Line Subway Extension construction.
The first news, presented by Metro’s Community Relations Manger Marlon Walker, was that, yes, Metro is designated an “essential service” and is still operating during the COVID-19 crisis, serving many essential workers. Walker said Metro has strengthened its cleaning procedures on buses and trains, office workers are practicing social distancing, and construction contractors are also aware of the new critical safety guidelines.
Section 1 Construction Update
According to Walker, Section 1 of the Purple Line Extension project, running from Western Ave. to La Cienega Blvd., is still on track for its scheduled opening in 2023.
Tunneling for the first part of this section, between Western and La Brea, was completed last year, and the Tunnel Boring Machines, nicknamed Elsie and Soyeon, have been working their way west from La Brea toward Fairfax since last fall. Principal Community Relations Officer Ned Racine said during the webinar that Elsie is currently just 300 feet from Fairfax Ave., with Soyeon (by design) several hundred feet behind. And after the meeting, Community Relations Manage Dave Sotero confirmed this, with even more precision. “Elsie is 305 feet from the Fairfax Station,” Sotero told the Buzz, “between Ogden and Spaulding. She is about to pass the Urban Lights installation. Soyeon is 1,761 feet from the Fairfax Station, just east of Curson, beside Johnnie’s New York Pizzeria.”
According to the Metro representatives, the TBMs should arrive at Fairfax early this month. From there, they’ll continue on west toward La Cienega, and should reach that station in August.
Some further tunneling details were also available in a newsletter sent out by Metro the day after the webinar:
“Beginning Monday, March 30, Elsie was supported by three shifts of workers, which means that work is happening around the clock.
The goal is to make Elsie’s breakthrough into the east end of the Wilshire/Fairfax Station in early April. Soyeon will follow several weeks later.
Elsie has carved 3,922.5 feet of the north tunnel. This translates to Elsie completing 88.4% of her 4,435.3-foot task, drilling from the Wilshire/La Brea to Wilshire/Fairfax stations. Put another way, she has erected 87.8% of the concrete tunnel rings she needs to finish. Elsie’s daily progression is measured with lasers and computers.
Soyeon has bored 68.9% of the south tunnel.”
The newsletter also noted that while the TBMs are tunneling, work is progressing on all three of the new Section 1 stations, with the La Brea station about 51% complete now, Fairfax at 41% completion, and La Cienega at 29%.
Scott Donohue, representing Metro’s design-build contractor Skanska-Traylor-Shea, reported at the webinar that while the new tunnels are complete at the Western Ave. station, workers are now excavating cross-passage connections between the tunnels.
Wilshire/La Brea Station
At La Brea, Donohue said, workers are currently building forms for the station roof, about 15 feet underground.
Also, a semi-permanent opening at Wilshire and Sycamore will be removed starting on April 25 (neighbors and local neighborhood groups opposed Metro’s latest request to maintain the opening, which was originally scheduled to be in use only through the end of 2018). After that opening is closed, Donohue said, Metro will occasionally remove sections of street-level decking, with intermittent lane closures and traffic controls, to deliver materials to the construction area underground.
Construction of a new antenna, to facilitate underground and emergency communications, is also underway at Sycamore Ave.
And cross-passage construction is also going on near La Brea, with excavation of dirt from Cross Passage 14, just east of Highland, happening now.
At finally in this area, at Rimpau Blvd., there’s a K-rail zone for delivery of materials.
At the new Fairfax station, excavation is underway at the entrance shaft area, along with work on a station appendage near Orange Grove Ave. (The current closure of Orange Grove Ave., just south of Wilshire, supports that appendage construction.)
Crescent Heights & La Jolla
There will not be a new station at Wilshire and Crescent Heights Blvd., but crews are working on various mitigations in that area before tunneling begins along Wilshire in that area. Crews are also currently drilling at night to pinpoint the locations of old oil wells near Wilshire and La Jolla Ave.
Wilshire/La Cienega Station
At the La Cienega station, crews are increasing their work hours, and currently installing a moisture-barrier layer of HDPE plastic on the station walls and floor, and building wall forms.
There will be intermittent traffic controls, sound mitigation efforts, and instrumentation work in that area, and near the Gale Ave. staging area serving the La Cienega station construction, through the rest of this year.
Section 2 Construction
While Section 2 of the Purple Line Extension, from La Cienega to Century City, is a bit west of our main readership area, it’s worth noting that this section is also on track for its scheduled opening in 2025…and that Metro is taking advantage of reduced traffic levels during the COVID-19 “safer at home” restrictions to institute a full closure of Wilshire Blvd, between Crescent and Beverly Drives, for the next three months, to help accelerate station construction. (The City does have the power to cancel the closure at any time, if the coronavirus restrictions are lifted sooner than currently planned.) The 24/7 closure started last week, and detours now direct traffic to Beverly, Santa Monica and Olympic Blvds. Pedestrian access remains open in the area, on the north side of Wilshire.
Also, it’s worth noting that Tunnel Boring Machines for Section 2 will be inserted at Constellation Blvd. this spring, and will work their way back east to La Cienega Blvd., where they’re scheduled to arrive in the spring of 2022.
Business Interruption Fund
Metro’s Business Interruption Fund provides financial assistance to small businesses along and immediately adjacent to Metro’s construction routes, and Walker reported during the webinar that the program has made a total of 1,083 grants so far, providing more than $26 million to 390 businesses citywide.
Along Section 1 of the Purple Line Extension route (Western to La Cienega), $5,608,791.43 has been given to 80 small businesses so far.
For more information, the full set of slides and other presentation materials from Wednesday’s Purple Line Extension update webinar is available at http://media.metro.net/2020/community-webinar-ple-2020-0401.pdf
The Purple Line Extension’s quarterly email update can be found here.
And the next Purple Line Extension Section 1 construction community meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 14, at the SAG/AFTRA building, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., at 6:30 p.m.