A PowerPoint presentation by Metro on work exemptions being sought for construction of the Purple Line Extension’s La Cienega station.
First, the good news. After years of talk, study, planning, engineering and the pursuit of funding, three Metro rail projects — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector — are on the verge of beginning serious construction.
Which brings us to the less-than-happy news: All three projects involve tunneling and building underground stations, which in turn require some very big holes to be excavated for stations. Bottom line: Although Metro will be making every effort to mitigate construction work identified in the project’s environmental studies, there will be unescapable and unavoidable impacts.
On each of the three projects, Metro is already discussing the issue of getting permits to perform construction work with local cities. Depending on the work to be performed, Metro is also seeking permission to be allowed to work during the morning and afternoon rush hours, during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and during overnight hours. Although Metro is seeking permission to work at night — which involves some noise — that noise must stay within legal limits.
Why is Metro doing this? To reduce the overall period of the heaviest construction impacts. In particular, Metro wants to complete street-level work as quickly as possible because underground construction work produces far fewer impacts. The hours when heavy construction work in most cities is limited and the more hours that construction can take place each week, the faster the projects can be built.
Some other salient points:
•Metro needs to get work permits so that contractors will know how many shifts they will be able to work at a given location for a particular activity. This will determine the projects’ overall schedules and will help the contractor better prepare their contract proposals. That’s why Metro is seeking permits for the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector now — so firms that are currently preparing bids to build those projects can better estimate their costs.
•The time it takes to complete a project, or parts of a project, is greatly determined by the number of hours of work that can be done each week. Example: Advanced utility relocation work for the projects requires lane closures in order to dig up and move pipes and cables. Example: the subway station at Wilshire/La Cienega, such work could be done in 19 months if work is limited to between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m on Sundays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays. Or, it could be reduced to 12 months if work is allowed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights.
Here’s the rub: The lane closures to relocate the utilities have greater impacts during the day whereas night work would minimize impacts to traffic, pedestrians and businesses.
•The bigger the task, the more important the issue of work hours become. This is illustrated by the progression of building underground stations:
1) Utility Relocation – Limited lane closures only.
2) Piles & Shoring – Requires heavier equipment to install the piles that will support the station walls and decking. At each station location, some lanes are closed while other lanes remain open.
3) Decking – Work takes place in the street and will require complete closure of the travel lanes in the streets, usually from Friday night to Monday morning on successive weekends. Once the deck is complete, work can take place underground without lane or street restrictions.
Let’s be clear on this, people: it’s the piles and shoring and the decking that will be the most painful part of the process. The quicker that gets done, the quicker that construction can move underground for several years. Once underground, the most noticeable part of that work should be hauling of materials to construction sites and the hauling of dirt away from the subway tunnels as they are excavated by the giant tunnel boring machines. (Metro is also talking to cities about haul routes and times for that work).
•Although Metro is seeking permits that would allow construction between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, work would not be done on the actual holidays.
•As part of its construction impact mitigation program, Metro Construction Relations will be interviewing business owners along all the project alignments to determine the best way to coordinate contractor activities with the least amount of impact.
•Metro is also hoping to have consistent hours. Example: two of the stations for the Purple Line Extension (La Brea and Fairfax) are in the city of Los Angeles and one is in Beverly Hills (La Cienega). If one of those cities seeks to greatly limit work hours or hold up permits during the review process, that could jeopardize the timeline for the entire project.
In the coming months, we’ll do our best to keep providing updates on work schedules and what communities near the projects can expect. Stay tuned — there is a lot happening.