Purple Line Extension secures $1.25-billion federal New Starts grant and $856-million federally-backed loan

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The signing of the funding documents this morning. From left, Metro Board Member Ara Najarian, Board Member Pam O’Connor, Metro CEO Art Leahy, Rep. Janice Hahn, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Board Chair Diane DuBois, Rep. Grace Napolitano, Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky and Federal Transit Administration Chief Counsel Dorval Carter.

Officials from Metro and the Federal Transit Administration signed a pair of agreements this morning in Washington D.C. for a $1.25-billion federal grant and a $856-million federally-backed loan to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway under Wilshire Boulevard. We’ll post video of this morning’s event later.

The agreements clear the way for construction activities to begin later this year on the 3.9-mile addition to the Purple Line, which currently terminates at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. The first phase of the project will extend the line to the intersection of Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be included in the first phase: at Wilshire and La Brea Avenue, Wilshire and Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire and La Cienega.

The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in 2023 with a project budget of $2.821 billion. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled this summer to select a contractor to build the first phase. The subway is one of 12 transit projects funded in part by the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by more than two million voters in Los Angeles County in 2008 (the measure passed with 67.93 percent approval).

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaking at the signing this morning in Washington D.C.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaking at the signing this morning in Washington D.C.

Utility relocations are already underway on the first phase and a 75-foot-deep exploratory shaft has already been dug across the street from LACMA in order to validate and learn more about soil conditions in that area. A number of fossils were found, identified and preserved during the excavation of the shaft.

The second phase of the project will extend the line to Century City in 2026 and the third phase to Westwood in 2036. Metro continues to explore ways that the second and third phase of the subway project and other road and transit projects may be accelerated from their original Measure R timelines.

The federal New Starts program is providing the $1.25-billion grant; the money will be appropriated to Metro on a year-by-year basis by Congress. The New Starts program helps local transit agencies build large and expensive transit projects.

The $856-million loan is coming from the TIFIA program that helps provide low-interest loans backed by the federal government to build new infrastructure; TIFIA helps reduce interest costs. The TIFIA program was expanded by Congress in 2012 to include transportation projects and is part of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative to expand federal funding for transportation projects.

Metro also secured a $670-million New Starts grant and $160-million TIFIA loan earlier this year to help fund construction of the Regional Connector, a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line in downtown Los Angeles to speed trips throughout the county and to downtown.

Here’s video of Metro CEO Art Leahy talking about the significance of today’s announcement:

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The news release from Metro is below:

Delivering on the Promise of Measure R


Los Angeles, Calif. – Marking an historic vote of confidence in Metro Rail subway construction in Los Angeles, The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today joined federal, state and local elected officials to announce the receipt of a $1.25 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for the first nearly four-mile, $2.821-billion segment of the long-awaited Metro Purple Line Extension Project toward West Los Angeles.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation simultaneously granted Metro a low-interest loan of $856 million from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Loan to complete the funding package for the first phase of the project. Combined, the nearly $2 billion in project commitments represent the single biggest federal transportation investment in the history of Los Angeles County.  The remaining $821 million in project funding includes Measure R, City of Los Angeles, and other existing local and federal funds.  

Metro Board Member Pam O'Connor and Metro CEO Art Leahy at this morning's signing ceremony.

Metro Board Member Pam O’Connor and Metro CEO Art Leahy at this morning’s signing ceremony.

“The federal commitment not only makes the subway extension to the Westside possible, it underscores the confidence of Washington in what we’re doing here in Los Angeles on many fronts to deal with the nation’s worst traffic congestion,” said Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois. “L.A. County is on the move. By the end of the year we’ll have a record five rail lines concurrently under construction in Los Angeles County, funded in part with about $3.5 billion in federal grants and low-interest loans. That is an unprecedented federal commitment to expanding transportation infrastructure in the county, and we are overjoyed and grateful.”

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, construction of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension will support over 25,000 jobs during its construction.

“Today’s signing of the full funding grant agreement for the Purple Line Extension marks a great day for Los Angeles,” said United States Senator Dianne Feinstein. “The project will connect the Westside to the region’s growing rail network, making it possible to get downtown in just 25 minutes. Securing funds for this $2.8 billion project was a joint effort, bringing together stakeholders in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington. This cooperation will result in not only a vital alternative to L.A.’s busy freeways, but also the creation of more than 25,000 jobs and significant reductions in carbon emissions. This is a great example of what can be achieved when federal, state and local governments work together.”

“The federal government’s historic funding commitment is a huge down payment for better mobility in Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti.  “I want to thank our partners in Washington for helping make sure Los Angeles gets the funding it needs to build our transportation improvements and deliver on the promise of Measure R.”

With federal funding commitments now in place, Metro will soon recommend the selection of a design-build contractor.  Preliminary construction activities for the first segment of the project could  begin later this year, with completion of the first subway segment anticipated in 2023.  The new segment will add three new subway stations: Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.  

The Purple Line Extension is a critically important, regionally beneficial transit project to extend L.A.’s subway further west from its terminus at Wilshire/Western in the Mid-Wilshire District.  The project was overwhelmingly approved by two-thirds of L.A. County voters in 2008 as part of the Measure R transportation sales tax initiative.  

Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky signing the funding deal this morning in D.C.

Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky signing the funding deal this morning in D.C.

“Our lives in West Los Angeles revolve around traffic.  Where and when we travel is largely determined by traffic congestion patterns,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member.   “Extending the subway will offer commuters an alternative to driving through one of the most congested metropolitan street and highway systems in the nation.  We can now see light at the end of the tunnel as the new subway will begin to serve the Wilshire corridor – one of the densest and most important commercial and residential sectors of our region.”

“I am pleased to learn that the Department of Transportation has announced a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Purple Line extension,” said Congressman Henry Waxman. “This federal money will turn years of planning into a reality, linking Downtown to the Westside and LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits, Restaurant Row, UCLA, and countless other sites.  The Purple Line will be a critical transportation alternative, reducing traffic and congestion and when finished, will connect Westwood to Union Station in 25 minutes.   This is an important step towards making this project a reality.”

Current funding streams require the project to be built in three separate phases.  When all phases are complete, the Purple Line will extend westward for nearly nine miles with a total of seven new stations. Future planned stations beyond the initial three include: Wilshire/Rodeo, Century City, Westwood/UCLA, and the Westwood/VA Hospital.  Under this three-phase scenario, the total project is forecast to cost $6.3 billion. Measure R funds will pay for approximately three-fourths of the overall project cost.  Metro is pursuing alternate funding scenarios that could accelerate subway construction.

“The ‘Subway to the Sea’ is about making Los Angeles work better, making it easier for Angelenos to get to work, and putting Angelenos to work,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif). “This  subway project is another investment that is building up our great city to connect Angelenos to where they live, work and play. It is expected to create over 25,000 jobs – a needed boost to our local economy, and Angelenos today and for generations to come will benefit from this important project.”

The Purple Line Extension to the Westwood/VA Hospital station will generate about 49,300 daily weekday boardings at the seven new stations.  Using a different measure, there will be about 78,000 new daily trips on the full Metro Rail System as a result of opening this line. During peak periods, trains are expected to run every four minutes.  During off-peak periods, they are expected to run every 10 minutes.

“I am pleased to see that the Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Purple Line Subway Extenion in Los Angeles has been signed,” said Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez. “This project will not only create vital activity in our economy, including nearly 26,000 jobs for the people of Los Angeles, it will further demonstrate our commitment to building a sustainable and healthy economy for every person in our city.”

“Today we are moving forward with the next generation of transit for our next generation and together are transforming Los Angeles County,” said Pam O’Connor, Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board Member.

“This signing is the culmination of years of consensus-building on the Metro board to unanimously support the design and construction of both the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension,” said Ara Najarian, Glendale City Council Member and Metro Board Member.  “We would not be here today if the board wasn’t pulling for these projects.”

Over 300,000 people travel into the Westside every day for work from throughout the region.  More than 100,000 trips leave the area for outside destinations.  These numbers are expected to  increase over time.  

The Purple Line extension will offer improved connectivity to the entire Metro Bus and Rail network, as well as municipal bus lines and other regional transportation services.

About Metro

Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that is really three companies in one: a major operator that transports about 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday on a fleet of 2,000 clean air buses and six rail lines, a major construction agency that oversees many bus, rail, highway and other mobility related building projects, and it is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County.  Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is, literally, changing the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region. Dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by Measure R are under construction or in the planning stages. These include five new rail lines, the I-5 widening and other major projects.  Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetro, twitter.com/metrolosangeles and twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.



23 replies

  1. Maybe I can answer some of the questions that have been raised.

    First off, Metro needs to finish the procurement process and award the Design/Build Contract. Then that Contractor will need to mobilize their design team and start taking the preliminary designs that they used to propose on and moving them to final designs. They will likely focus on the first station box they want to dig and start with those. At the same time they will submit the designs for the two tunnel boring machines they will use and once the plans are approved, order them (It will take about a year just to have the machines built and delivered. They are not the kind of thing you can go down to the local tunnel boring machine lot and buy). The excavating and setting up of the first station box will be worked on at the same time as the machines are being built. Once the machines are built, delivered and assembled (one at a time) inside the completed station excavation (box), then they will begin the process of mining a tunnel. Each machine pushes forward 4 feet at a time, with a good day being (usually) 10 pushes (over two shifts of work). Due to the connection to the existing lines, it is anticipated that the contractor will mine east to Wilshire/Western, then taken the machines apart, bring them back to the launch station and re-launch them in a westerly direction to complete the tunnels. Once the tunnels are mined, then work on the actual station structures begins as well as the hand mining of the cross-passages.
    As the various structural elements are completed, installation of permanent systems begins. As the various systems are installed they are tested, then once a suite of systems are installed they are tested together to insure they work together as designed. Finally, when all the various systems have been installed, tested individually and together, then a period of time begins when the systems are tested under actual operating conditions (but without passengers), during that time new rail cars are tested and operators are trained. This is just a thumbnail sketch of just what it takes with most of the details left out. But there is a lot of work to do.
    Ralph G. Sbragia, CSP
    Construction Safety Manager, Purple Line Project

  2. Wow, they all had to go to DeeCee for a photo-op? Who paid for that?

  3. This is yet ANOTHER BOONDOGGLE, that the MTA will WASTE MILLIONS ON, and taxpayers will not see ANY RESULT OF, for AT LEAST 10-15 years (if then!). Another example is El Monte Station! $60 Million FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS used, and it STILL HAS AN EMPTY BUILDING AT IT (but the “artwork” is in a prominent location!).

  4. China has also had some very serious, fatal railway collapses. 9 years does seem like a long time, but construction standards are higher here. It’s in everybody’s interest (except maybe Beverly Hills NIMBYs) to get the work done as quickly as possible, so I’m sure Metro will do that.

  5. What do they do with the dirt that they dig up for the tunnels? How about for skyscrapers? It may be a dumb questions, but I have no idea what they answer is.

  6. Shenzhen is a city in China. China is a Communist totalitarian country where the people have no voice. When government says get it built, they get it built and any dissent is squashed.

    If there are homes or businesses in the way, too bad, sucks to be them. If someone complains, they mysteriously go “missing.” If the workers complain about low wages and crappy working conditions, they just fire them and replace with new workers that are readily available in their billion plus population.

    But it does get things done faster and a lot cheaper.

    Your choice. Give up American freedoms with slower and more expensive results, in exchange for China’s quicker and cheaper results but loss of freedom. You can’t have both when transit is run by government.

    The other approach is to privatize mass transit. That too will make things go a lot faster and cheaper.

    Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong (part of China now but as a Special Administrative Region with respect to democracy and capitalism), Singapore runs mass transit as a for profit enterprise. They aren’t burdened with budget constraints from taxpayers as they are run purely on profit gains.

  7. Great news, but let’s face reality here.

    The realistic outlook is that all the money would be wasted in more meetings, studies and lawsuits with Beverly Hills.

  8. Hi Steve,

    i have the same question as well. Is there a way to speed it up? Hypothetically, if more money was allocated, would they be able to add man power to get this finished in 4 years? It seems as though subway projects in Madrid and Asia take significantly less time to complete.

  9. Hi Steve,
    It’s obviously a huge public works project, and a long construction period is understandable. On the other hand, subways are constructed much more quickly in other countries, and they have to move a lot of earth too. The city of Shenzhen built an entire network of subways in less than 10 years, and is constructing dozens of additional miles of subway to be added in the next few years, prior to the projected completion date of these four additional miles of the purple line here in LA. I know we have more involved planning and more community input here, which lengthens the time it takes for projects to get built. But that phase is over for this piece of the subway. And now the funding is in place. Can you shed any light on why it seems to take roughly an order of magnitude longer to build a subway here?

    • Hey Alex and Dion;

      I totally understand your reasoning. I don’t know all the ins and outs of construction and the construction timetable. I do know — as Dion suggests — that the New Starts money from Congress has to be allocated on a year-by-year basis for Phase One. So the money arrives over time, not at once and that’s likely an issue. There is a construction timeline floating around somewhere that I’ll try to post soon. It’s interesting and shows the sequence of work. I’ll also talk to the subway project team and let them know that the public wants to know more about the construction timeline and why it takes the time it does to build.


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. So glad Waxman and Yaroslavsky got to celebrate this victory for Los Angeles, despite being the cause of the delay over the past two decades. If it weren’t for them and their short-sighted politics, we could be riding this subway right now.

  11. It is great the money is confirmed. But why is it going to tske 8-9 years for less than 4 miles? 2 years per mile ?

    • Hi Mark;

      An enormous amount of earth has to be moved for the project is the short answer. Preparing the sites, getting the tunnel machines into and out of the ground, excavating the stations and then building them and installing very sophisticated electronics and communication systems for trains and security…it takes time.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source