Expo Line elaborates on points raised in Times’ story

The Los Angeles Times ran a story on Tuesday headlined “Expo Line project costs and delays are ballooning; The rail line from downtown L.A. to Culver City is $220 million over budget and a year behind schedule. Officials hope to open part of the route next year.”

As I posted yesterday, the story was mostly a review of previously reported issues on the Expo Line light rail project. In response to the story, the Expo Line Construction Authority — the independent agency created to build the line — issued a memo elaborating on some of the points discussed in the Times’ story.

The memo:

1.    $23.7 million was approved by the Expo Board in August of 2007 and the Metro Board in September 2007 for project enhancements. These were not cost overruns, but enhancements to the project not originally contemplated as part of the budget. The items included the addition of the Expo Park/USC station, the Expo/Blue Line interface and operational improvements as well as changes requested by the CPUC for a frontage road along Trade Tech.
2.    $145 million was approved by the Expo Board and Metro Boards in November 2007 to cover construction cost increases. When Metro developed the original $640 million project budget, they contemplated escalation rates of 3.5% per year. The actual escalation rates at that time were well over 11% for labor and for materials. There were large increases in concrete, steel and gas costs which substantially increased the cost of construction.  As a result, the original construction costs allocated in the project budget were insufficient. Based on actual escalation rates experienced by the project in 2006 and 2007, additional construction costs increased by over $80 million alone.  Construction costs were also formulated during the early stages of preliminary engineering in 2003 before design had commenced. As is typical during the design of a project, unforeseen work elements were identified and construction estimates had to be modified once design of the project had progressed. The progression of design also identified items that had not been included in the original project budget. These items included costs for the National Blvd. Bridge construction, additional contractor insurance and bond costs, additional third party review and utility relocation costs. These costs had not been fully developed during preliminary engineering and only when design had progressed could these costs be accurately estimated.

3.    In April 2008, the Metro Board approved $54 million for the addition of the Culver City aerial station and structure. While the aerial station and structure were environmentally cleared as part of Phase 1, funding was not available when the project was approved to build the permanent aerial station and structure so a temporary at-grade station was to be constructed just east of National. The aerial station and structure were to be built as part of Phase 2. When Prop 1B was passed by the voters in November 2007, additional funding became available for projects that were “environmentally cleared and ready to be built.” It was decided that instead of building a temporary station, that the funding would be used from Prop 1B to build the permanent station and structure as part of Phase 1. Again, this was not a cost overrun but an enhancement to the Phase 1 project.

4.    Delays have been reported to the Board and include third party delays in relocating overhead power lines, delays by Caltrans in approving the design for the Flower St. bridge over the 110 freeway and contractor delays in submitting plans for reconstruction of the bridge.

5.    Any cost overruns and delays associated with the Farmdale crossing will be better assessed when the CPUC makes their final decision on that crossing.