FTA approves Metro’s request to be reimbursed for early work activities on Purple Line Extension’s section three

The Federal Transit Administration this week approved Metro’s request to be reimbursed for early work activities for Section Three of the Purple Line Extension Project between Century City and the Westwood/VA Hospital.

The approval also clears the way for Metro to take advantage of highly competitive tunnel contract bids, which have come in lower than expected and would save the project an estimated $130 million. These tunneling bids were at risk to expire on October 3. Additionally, the FTA’s approval avoids the need to rebid the tunnel contract, saving an additional $200 million in projected escalation costs and nearly two years of project delay.

The “Letter of No Prejudice” (LONP) permits the agency to incur costs on a project using non-federal resources with the understanding that the costs incurred after the letter’s approval may be reimbursable to Metro if the project is chosen for federal funding later. The LONP will take effect upon FTA’s final review of technical refinements to the project, which are being finalized by Metro. Metro will then issue a Notice to Proceed to the contractor, Frontier-Kemper/Tutor Perini Joint Venture, which has agreed to extend its bid price to December 3, 2018 to accommodate FTA’s final environmental review.

FTA’s actions mark an important step in the path to ultimately secure a Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Purple Line Extension Section Three. In August, Section Three was cleared to enter the engineering phase of the FTA Capital Investment Grants Program. Two earlier subway extension sections have already received federal funding. Metro is now seeking a $1.3-billion grant for Section Three through the FTA’s New Starts Program and anticipates a grant agreement will be forthcoming in early 2019.

“Metro is now one step closer to extending the Purple Line subway all the way to West Los Angeles thanks to a positive working relationship with our federal funding partners,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “I want to thank FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams and her staff for their commitment to advancing this project and for helping to bring a comprehensive public transportation system to L.A. County.”

Overall, Metro’s revised Letter of No Prejudice, submitted to the FTA on August 30, reduced the agency’s ask from $786 million for early work activities to $492 million based on favorable tunneling contract bids and other project efficiencies.

“L.A. Metro is working hard to complete all three phases of the Purple Line Extension Project prior to the 2028 Olympics, seven years ahead of schedule,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. “I intend to make sure the federal government continues to be a good partner in this effort and helps keep the project moving forward as we prepare to welcome the world to Los Angeles.”

The Purple Line Extension’s first two sections are under construction between Wilshire/Western and Century City. When all three sections are complete, the subway extension will travel approximately nine miles underground between Koreatown and Westwood. Major construction of the first section between Koreatown and Beverly Hills began in 2015.

“Thanks to L.A. County taxpayers, we already have the local dollars we need to pay the lion’s share of this regionally significant mega-project,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Working closely with the FTA, we can leverage our significant local investment with the precious resources of the federal government to deliver one of the most competitive and beneficial public transit projects in America today.”

Construction of the second section between Beverly Hills and Century City started in 2017. Section Three, scheduled to begin construction in 2019, will complete the subway to Westwood. The entire line is on track to open by 2026, in time for the 2028 L.A. Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

4 replies

  1. “The approval also clears the way for Metro to take advantage of highly competitive tunnel contract bids, which have come in lower than expected and would save the project an estimated $130 million.”
    I wonder if fear of Elon Musk [better and cheaper tunneling technologies?] has made tunnel contracting and contractors more competive and hungry to lock in work projects?
    [Even if Musk’s tunneling dreams are vaporware, the FUD saved Metro $130,000,000.]

  2. So will they build two long tunnels from the VA to century city and then cut them open to create the station box at Wilshire Westwood?

    How about a large diameter single bore ?

    • Twice the diameter equals 4 times the soil to be removed. It also means a vastly larger machine that needs a bigger portal to start, twice the concrete to line the walls, support to raise the tracks to ~1/2 way up the tunnel, etc. A single large bore is not the answer. In fact, that is why The Boring Company is going smaller.

      • elon is using a 3 meter diameter sewer Tunnel boring machine, it’s very fascinating what he’s doing, but it is capacity limited by it’s small size and lacks any emergency egress and will not meet NEPA ventilation requirements. However, given the advances Musk has made in electric drive trains, the massive skeletons of trains as we traditionally understand them are probably no longer necessary, which may be where his real innovation comes in, in proving that rolling stock can be made much smaller with today’s technology and still transport a lot of people. And reduced rolling stock size reduces tunnel requirements and could drastically cut the costs of tunneling. However, this sort of bespoke approach has a lot of upside but the huge downside of not being cross compatible with global built out infrastructure. — on the other hand, building to Standard Gauge would solve a lot of that problem, but then you’re adding mass to your undersized rolling stock platform… tradeoffs everywhere.

        the amount of concrete is about the same for tunnel walls for large single bore or traditional twin bore, because there are two diamaters in twin bore.

        in terms of track bed and other inside the tunnel infrastrucutre there are a lot of ways single bore can be handled, from fully separated levels, to only separated levels at stations all of which are dependent on tunnel diameter, air circulation and emergency egress amongst other factors.

        metro’s twin tunnels are already a very large 6.5 meters in diameter, Barcelona is doing some single bore tunnels for their trains at 9.5 meters in diameter. We do not have to increase to 12-13 meters in diameter in order to fit two trains in the tunnel or otherwise take on the benefits of single bore construction.

        therefore it isn’t instantly so that it will be 4 times the amoutn of soil to be removed. True that some tunnel construction will take longer, but you also eliminate almost all the tunnel construction for building cross passageways, so these two more or less balance out.

        90% of all the costs and time wasted on jet grouting (which takes about three to four years, and is much more disruptive than station palace construction) is eliminated.

        95% of the utility relocation is eliminated

        80% of the street disruption from station palace construction is eliminated.

        Since the basis of single bore is cutting into the tunnel to create station platforms after-the-fact, which is what is being planned for phase three and wilshire/westwood, I naturally thought this was a possibility.

        but this is metro, they’ll hand wave away all the benefits and improved stakeholder outcomes and we will grant the usual inflated contract to use dual bore.