Metro today provided the agency’s staff recommendation for a contractor to build the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line. Staff is recommending a contract in the amount of $1,272,632,356 to Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors. The contract includes stations at Leimert Park and Hindry that were approved last month by the Metro Board of Directors.
Walsh/Shea is a joint venture between Walsh Construction and J.F. Shea Company. Walsh/Shea has collaborated to work on many other rail projects in the United States, including the DART system in Dallas.
Walsh/Shea was one of four firms to submit proposals for the contract. The Metro staff evaluation gave Walsh/Shea the highest technical score; Walsh/Shea also had the lowest bid in terms of cost.
The Metro Board of Directors will decide on the contract award; the Board can choose to accept or reject the staff recommendation. The Board’s Construction Committee will discuss the contract at its meeting on June 20 and the full Board is scheduled to vote on the contract at their monthly meeting on Thursday, June 27, at Metro’s headquarters adjacent to Union Station. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Both the committee meeting and full Board meetings are, as usual, open to the public.
The Crenshaw/LAX Line is one of 12 transit projects being funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
The light rail project between the Expo Line and the Green Line is currently forecast to open in 2019 with major construction beginning in 2014. Utility work is already underway. The Board is also being asked to add funds to the project’s budget to include the Leimert Park and Hindry stations, as well as extra contingency funds, bringing the project’s budget to $2.058 billion, assuming all the funding sources come through. The budget also includes funds for new rail cars, a rail maintenance yard, real estate acquisition and the costs of planning the line and other items not included in the contract total.
Some notes and background about the project and the contract:
•The line is forecast by Metro to have average weekday boardings of just under 25,000 by the year 2035. Metro and Los Angeles World Airports are working together on another Measure R project that would connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line to LAX via either light rail, bus rapid transit and/or people mover. That project is currently scheduled to be completed in the late 2020s and will depend on funding from the city of Los Angeles.
•For those who want the Park Mesa Heights segment placed underground instead of running at street level, I want you to understand the process. First and foremost, it needs to be understood that the Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration have approved the project with a street-running segment through Park Mesa Heights. The Board has stuck with this decision.
Firms that submitted proposals for the project were allowed to submit “Alternative Technical Concepts” (or ATCs) that could potentially lower the cost of the project, improve its quality, reliability, performance or schedule. However, Metro did not consider ATCs that significantly changed the project or required a supplemental environmental impact statement/report.
Three points worth considering about the stretch of tracks through Park Mesa Heights. 1) The street is 180 feet wide and a train can safely operate in the median, as streetcars used to on Crenshaw; 2) Building a tunnel for this segment would cost up to an additional $250 million; 3) Adding a tunnel at this time would require that the final environmental studies be re-done, which Metro officials say would take nine to 18 months and could jeopardize federal funds being used to help build the line.
When the train line is completed, Crenshaw Boulevard will have three general traffic lanes in each direction through Park Mesa Heights, in addition to a parking lane and bike lanes. Metro says it will plant two trees for every tree removed to build the project.
•The train will pass near Crenshaw High School. Metro light rail trains currently pass near Dorsey High School (Expo Line), Blair High School (Gold Line), Mendez Learning School (Gold Line) and Ramona High School (Gold Line) and have thus far done so without incident. Metro has worked closely with the California Public Utilities Commission and the city of Los Angeles to incorporate safety features into the Crenshaw/LAX Line, including fencing, signage, pedestrian gates, crosswalks and security cameras.
•For those who are comparing the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Blue Line: The Blue Line opened in 1990 and was the first modern light rail project in our region since the streetcars stopped running in the early 1960s. Many safety features have been added to the line since then and overall incidents have declined. Metro is continuing to add more safety elements along the line, including a new effort to reduce suicides.
•About 55 percent of the Crenshaw/LAX Line is separated by the street — that is, 55 percent of the line will be in a tunnel, in a trench or an aerial structure above streets. By comparison, the Blue Line is 20 percent grade separated, the Pasadena Gold Line is 42 percent, the Eastside Gold Line is 37 percent and the Expo Line is 20 percent. The Green Line is 100 percent grade-separated because it runs in the median of the 105 freeway and aerial structures.
This is also the reason that on a per mile basis, the Crenshaw/LAX Line will be the most expensive light rail line that Metro has built. The Purple Line Extension subway will be more expensive but it is a type of transit called “heavy rail” that can carry more people and run at higher speeds. It is being built as a subway because of the dense area along its alignment (mostly under Wilshire Boulevard) and expected high ridership.
•The Crenshaw/LAX Line is a design-build project, meaning a single contractor is responsible for the final design and construction of the contract. The idea is that some design and construction work will overlap, which will help the project be built more quickly.
•Among some of the big tasks: building the underground station boxes at the two northernmost stations at Exposition & Crenshaw and Crenshaw & Martin Luther King, Jr., boulevards. It is expected that the contractor will lower the tunnel boring machine (TBM) into the ground at Expo & Crenshaw and then tunnel south, either extracting the TBM at Crenshaw/MLK or proceeding south to the Leimert Park station at Vernon & Crenshaw.
•With major federal funding in this project, Metro is prohibited by law from “local hiring” of any specific ethnic group. However, the Metro Board approved a plan (called a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA) to implement targeted hiring focused on unemployed and disadvantaged workers while also providing apprenticeship opportunities. Under the Project Labor Agreement, Metro has identified areas by zip code where there is a high number of these workers and that includes South Los Angeles and Inglewood.
•Metro is requiring the contractor to make up for the loss of parking during construction. Also, Metro is preparing profiles for every business along the alignment to identify their type of business, hours of operation, number of employees, access for customers and how deliveries are made. Once a contractor is hired, the contractor will begin working closely with local businesses, the Crenshaw Leadership Council and others.