L.A. Metro marks the start of major construction on the final section of the Purple Line extension

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
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A tunnel section of the L.A. Metro Purple Line extension.

On Monday, May 24, The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) held a ceremonial groundbreaking.

They were joined by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, UCLA and key local and federal officials to mark the start of major construction on the third and final section of the Purple (D Line) Extension Project that will connect downtown L.A. and the Westside via a high-speed, high capacity subway in 2027.

FTA Deputy Administrator Nuria Fernandez was in attendance to celebrate the $3.6-billion Section 3 project, which has received a $1.3-billion federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project will connect two previous subway sections through Koreatown, Beverly Hills and Century City and extend it another two-and-a-half miles to Westwood. Metro will build new stations at Westwood/UCLA to serve Westwood Village and UCLA and another at Westwood/VA Hospital to serve the hospital campus just west of the I-405 freeway.

Contractor Tutor-Perini/O&G’s near-term work for the future Westwood/VA Hospital station includes a piling operation to create a temporary support structure for the underground station. Drill rigs will dig 100-foot deep holes into the ground and a crane will place steel beams known as ‘piles’ into each hole. After the pile is put in place, each hole will be filled with concrete to provide support for the station walls. Following completion of piling later this year, Metro’s contractor will then begin excavating the subway station box.

Prior “pre-construction” work to date has consisted of final design, advanced utility relocation and Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) assembly and component testing, among others.

“The Purple Line Expansion is the key that will unlock our transportation future and open doors of opportunity across our city — and today’s groundbreaking moves us one step closer to completely redefining our relationship with public transit,” said L.A. City Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “We promised Angelenos a world-class transit system when we passed Measure M, and this milestone is a clear indication of our commitment to make Los Angeles a more accessible, sustainable, and inclusive city.”

The FTA’s $1.3-billion federal grant will be delivered through a multi-year agreement known as a Full Funding Grant Agreement that is governed by the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program, popularly referred to as “New Starts.” It is a stand-alone grant agreement, with no required loans for Metro to pay back as in previous funding agreements for first two project extensions. The remaining funds needed to build the project will come from Metro’s own local voter-approved transportation sales tax measures.

“The Federal Transit Administration is proud to partner with Metro and the entire Los Angeles region to bring more transportation options to residents, veterans, students and visitors to the 2028 Summer Olympics through the Purple Line extension,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “This project is an excellent example of a transformational infrastructure investment that the Biden-Harris Administration supports. It will improve access and mobility for millions of people traveling in one of Los Angeles County’s most congested corridors.”

The $9.5-billion project was able to secure approximately half of the total project cost from the FTA.

“I’d like to congratulate LA Metro on the latest Purple Line groundbreaking,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “The new station at the West LA VA campus will allow people to travel from downtown Los Angeles to the VA facility in about half an hour, which will greatly increase access to the VA for veterans and employees who work at the campus. I’m been proud to help secure funding for the Purple Line over the years. This subway line is expected to be one of the busiest transit lines in the country, and today’s groundbreaking keeps the project on-track to be completed in time for the 2028 Olympics.”

“This groundbreaking which will connect the Westside to Downtown LA in 30 minutes is so exciting for me personally but also for the community I represent,” said U.S. Rep. Karen Bass. “Safety, efficiency and effectiveness are all key in this project. And I want to commend the Metro team, including my friend Phillip Washington, who is a national leader in infrastructure and transportation- as well as the acting FTA Administrator Nuria Fernanadez for seeing this project through.”

Metro is now actively building all three sections of the subway extension, which are planned to open in 2024, 2025 and 2027, respectively. The first section between Wilshire/Western and Beverly Hills is nearly 70 percent complete. Section 2 is now nearly 45 percent complete. Section 3, including pre-construction work, has reached 20 percent completion.

“Once completed, the Purple Line extension will not only ease the burden of commuting for tens of thousands of Angelenos, but it will also improve connectivity for veterans across the region traveling to and from the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “I’m proud to see federal funding complement the great work that LA Metro is doing to bring the Purple Line to Westwood, and I look forward to working in Congress to bring additional federal resources needed to improve transportation in the greater Los Angeles region.”

“The completed Purple Line is finally pulling into view,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Sheila Kuehl. “The last leg of construction is getting underway, and whether you’re sick of congestion, concerned about climate change, or just looking for a fast way to get from downtown to the Westside and back, closing in on completion of this portion of our 21st century transit network is really good news.”

“This new Metro line connecting L.A.’s two biggest job centers with fast, frequent, and reliable transit service will revolutionize how Angelenos move around their city,” said L.A. City Council Member and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin. “It is the single most important investment we are making to untangle the Westside’s notorious gridlock and give people real alternatives to sitting in traffic.”

The subway extension to the Westwood/VA Hospital station will garner about 49,300 daily weekday boardings at the seven new stations. There will be about 78,000 new daily trips on the full Metro Rail System as a result of opening this line.

“The Purple Line Extension will be a welcomed resource for the Veterans and medical center staff traveling to West LA for medical care and work,” said Dr. Steven Braverman, Director, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “The Westwood-VA Hospital extension will provide dedicated transportation, reduce traffic near our campus, and increase campus access for our Veterans across the greater Los Angeles area.”

“I want to thank U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein for championing this project as a key member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “I also want to express my appreciation to FTA Deputy Administrator Nuria Fernandez, Vice President Kamala Harris, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Congressman Ted Lieu and all members of the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation for uniting behind this project and ensuring that federal funding would be prioritized for this important project. It is truly a project of regional and national significance.”

Prior to the pandemic, over 300,000 workers traveled into the Westside every morning from throughout the region — and the Westside is the second largest job center in our region. More than 100,000 trips also leave the area for outside destinations. As the pandemic has eased, traffic has returned and the subway extension project will offer improved connectivity to the entire Metro Bus and Rail network, as well as transfers to municipal bus lines and other regional transportation services.

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