Subway Facts & History responds to questions from readers

We’ve posted three pieces so far in our Subway Facts & History series providing information about topics generating discussion on the Westside Subway Extension. The project is nearing completion of its final environmental document, which should be released sometime this fall.

Part 1 of the series looked at what can be built above subway tunnels, Part 2 discussed building subways in earthquake areas and Part 3 provided some background on trying to determine the station location in Century City.

A reader named Carol Spencer has asked two good questions that we wanted to share with our audience. Below are her questions and the answers from Metro planners.

QUESTION: Does Metro offer a document or means/method/way that offers recourse to the property owner who signed and settled the property acquisition for a Metro tunnel before construction begins beneath their property in the event that vibration and/or sound and/or settlement or other problems arise once the subway is operating?  There are hundreds of homes in the Westwood area as well as residential and High School property in Beverly Hills that might be affected per my question above. What is our future recourse? I have heard that we must SUE Metro – there should be a means other than legal action – after all Metro warns their might be future subsidence, vibration etc. Is it included in the contract the property owner signs? Please publish this information.

ANSWER: Wherever Metro tunnels pass under private property, Metro must purchase a sub-surface easement from the property owner. The value of the easement is determined through an appraisal and negotiation process. More information is discussed in the project’s Property Acquisition Fact Sheet.

Metro will always work to ensure that our projects are built and operate in the safest manner possible for all those who live and work nearby as well as for our passengers. The ongoing environmental review process requires us to identify potential negative impacts, including the risk of subsidence, noise and vibration from the project during construction as well as when the trains are operating. The process further requires us to implement feasible mitigation measures to avoid or substantially reduce any significant environmental impacts that are identified. Similar issues were also raised during the construction of the tunnel of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension project. These issues were successfully addressed. The tunnel portion of the project was excavated and completed with no measurable surface subsidence. Additionally, we have not received complaints about noise or vibration during operations from anyone living above any of our tunnels.

We do however understand the concerns of our neighbors and have developed procedures to deal with any problems if they arise during construction or once the project is operating. Prior to beginning construction, Metro or the construction contractor would generally conduct a “pre-construction survey” on all the properties along the alignment.  This can be valuable to property owners, tenants and Metro as it provides a record of building conditions before construction or operations. The documentation can include written information as well as still photo and video.  If any damage occurs that is related to construction of the project, all parties can refer to this record to arrive at a fair resolution.  A well-defined process for handling claims will be established.

Metro Community Relations staff assigned to the project will be responsible for maintaining the pre-construction surveys along with field reports gathered during the course of construction. This staff will be responsible for monitoring any issues that arise including tracking response time and outcomes. The construction project will carry insurance should any such issues arise.

This documentation gathered before and during construction should also prove useful in the event a property owner believes their property has been impacted once the project begins operating. In this case, the property owner should contact Metro Customer Relations or Community Relations and provide information about the impact so that it may be addressed by the appropriate department and hopefully resolved.If this process does not resolve the issue, the property owner may file a claim against the agency.

QUESTION: Wasn’t there an earlier routing N/S on Avenue of the Stars with a station at Constellation that was eliminated early on? That routing would avoid BHHS [Beverly Hills High School] and eliminate those problems yet it will offer a station that would serve the entire Century City area.

ANSWER: During earlier study phases, Metro also evaluated, and ultimately ruled out, a north-south oriented station located under Avenue of the Stars between Santa Monica and Constellation Boulevards. This location would have required a significantly longer tunnel in order to achieve the north-south orientation for this station and resulted in much higher costs, longer travel times and tunneling under more private properties than the options still being studied.

3 replies

  1. why doesn’t metro just go to the BH school district and ask them what their building plans are for the campus and then build what they want at the same time the tunnel is built ? Is BH being vague about what they are planning or do they actually have a future campus plan?

  2. Are the sewer and water tunnels also put under this much scrutiny when they are built?

  3. Thank you for posting this response to my questions. The more knowledge we have on the Metro process and the impacts upon the hundreds of homes they will tunnel beneath in Westwood is very helpful.