After several decades of talk and plans that never came to fruition, subway tunneling began Monday afternoon under Wilshire Boulevard for the Purple Line Extension project. The above video shows the scene 60 feet below Wilshire and La Brea shortly after noon Monday.
What are you seeing? A look at the pair of tunnel boring machines that will be used to dig the twin tunnels for the project. At about the :20 mark, you can see the gap in one of the TBMs — a sign that it has begun to push ahead and begin the excavation work.
The second TBM will soon begin digging, too. Both TBMs will initially dig east to the current terminus of the Purple Line at Wilshire and Western Avenue. Once there, the TBMs will be taken apart, trucked back to Wilshire and La Brea and then reassembled so they can start excavating to the west.
The Purple Line Extension project is being built in three sections and will extend the subway nine miles to the Westwood/VA Hospital. The first two sections are under construction with Section One the furthest along — it’s forecast to open in late 2023 and will run 3.9 miles from Wilshire/Western to stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega in Beverly Hills.
Section Two of the project will run from Wilshire/La Cienega to Wilshire/Rodeo Station in downtown Beverly Hills to Century City Station at the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard. Section Two is forecast to open in 2025.
If you’re interested in why it has taken so long to build a subway under Wilshire, please see this post from a few years ago that looks at the many plans that have come and gone. Hint: the reasons largely involve local politics and lack of funding or region-wide suport.
Why is the project finally happening now?
Because Los Angeles County voters approved the Measure R sales tax measure in 2008, creating a pot of local money that has been combined with federal funds to pay for the project. Measure M — approved in 2016 — will accelerate the project’s third section between Century City and stations at Wilshire and Westwood Boulevard and the Westwood/VA Hospital. The third section is forecast to open in 2026.
Here are some photos taken Monday — please feel free to use. Credit goes to “Joe Lemon/LA Metro.”