Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
Development of a public rail-transit system for Los Angeles in California began more than 20 years ago and has had its ups and downs. The ups are the creation of the existing 88-mile (140km) network, with 18 miles (about 30km) of that underground; and the downs center on a 10-year development hiatus for subsurface heavy-rail construction following collapse of heavy-rail running tunnels under construction on Hollywood Boulevard in 1995 and a ban on Federal funding for underground construction following a natural gas explosion that occurred in 1985 within the Fairfax area several blocks north of Wilshire Boulevard through which new underground sections were to be constructed. On a recent visit to Los Angeles, Shani Wallis reports on how the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is developing and managing procurement of a mega-investment of nearly $10 billion in 19 miles of new light- and heavy-rail services, with 9-miles of that running underground.
The success of the effort has culminated in a current extension of the underground heavy-rail system as one of a program of three new lines that are in the process of procurement. Building to a total of nearly 19-miles of new infrastructure, the three Lines are:
• The 1.9-mile Regional Connector to link the current terminus of the Blue and Expo Line at the 7th/Metro Center
Station to the Gold Line near the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station in a new underground alignment - estimated
total project cost of $1.399 billion;
• The 8.5-mile light-rail Crenshaw/LAX corridor project, which includes sections at grade, elevated over major
traffic intersections, and underground at LAX International Airport and at additional locations, to link the Expo
Line on Exposition Boulevard and the Metro Green Line with its current bus link station to LAX Airport - estimated
project budget $2.058 billion; and
• The Westside Purple Line beneath Wilshire Boulevard from the existing Wilshire/Western Station to the
Wilshire/La Cienega Station as the first of three, entirely underground, construction phases that will continue
the Purple Line 9 miles, eventually to Century City and Westwood - estimated cost $6.5 billion, based on the
30-year plan, with the last section to Westwood opening in 2036, and the first 3.92-mile phase containing three
Table 2. Award and prequalified teams bidding the three new contracts Regional Connector
Proposals from four prequalified teams currently being evaluated
Regional Connector Constructors, a JV of Skanska USA/Kiewit Infrastructure West/Traylor Bros
Shea/Walsh/Parsons Transportation Group JV
Purple Line extension segment 1
Proposals to be submitted by 19 December 2013 from four prequalified groups
Impregilo/Samsung/Salini JV as Westside Transit Partners
Awarded in May 2013 to the Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors JV
Competing proposals from:
Crenshaw Transit Partners - Fluor/Balfour Beatty/SA Healy
- The new projects are managed within Metro by the Transit Project Delivery Construction Project Management department, headed by Executive Director K.N. Murthy. In his team, the underground Purple Line is managed by Project Director Dennis Mori, who managed Metro's construction of the Metro Red Line from Hollywood through the Santa Monica Mountains into the San Fernando Valley, and more recently the Gold Line Eastside Extension project into East LA. Project Director Bryan Pennington is managing the Regional Connector and the Crenshaw/LAX Lines.
- Parsons Brinckerhoff, the engineering firm which has worked on the LA Metro since the beginning of underground transit projects in Los Angeles, is the preliminary engineering consultant for the current works with Lead Tunnel Engineers Amanda Elioff for the Purple Line Extension and Bill Hansmire for the Regional Connector. Hatch Mott McDonald is the preliminary engineering consultant on the Crenshaw project and Derek Penrice is Lead Tunnel Engineer. Matthew Crow is technical tunnel design reviewer for Metro's engineering department.
- At a recent meeting in Los Angeles, TunnelTalk was given an update on current progress of each project and an explanation of how they are being financed and procured.
For the current projects, Metro is making a departure from its previous procurement strategies. Where early LRT and heavy-rail tunneling contracts were procured as design-bid-build processes with the lowest competitive bidder building the works according to 100% final designs completed by Parsons Brinckerhoff, the most recent Gold Line Eastside Extension project was procured as a hybrid contract, with design-bid-build for the nearly 2-mile length of bored tunneling and initial support of two underground stations, and design-build for the station structures and at-grade parts of the route. The three new contracts are all procured as design-build contracts based on preliminary engineering designs by Parsons Brinckerhoff for the Purple Line, AECOM/Parsons Brinckerhoff JV for the Regional Connector, and Hatch Mott McDonald for the Crenshaw/LAX project.
Fig 2. At-grade, elevated, and below-grade alignment of the Crenshaw/LAX Line
- In explaining the new strategy, Executive Director Murthy said it was a major decision for Metro but one that brings significant advantages. Murthy, who was a Senior Vice President with Parsons Brinckerhoff and worked on early contracts of the LA Metro before becoming Metro's Executive Director of Transit Project Delivery, said: "Metro is now a mature client and has more than 20 years of experience building heavy- and light-rail systems. As comparable projects with these earlier works, we feel there is no need to spend time and money completing 100% detailed design ahead of engaging a design-build contractor for the new works. M&E requirements in the design-build proposals are included as performance specifications and the new civil works are extensions of existing lines and require continuity and compatibility with those earlier installations."
- "For some contractors, design-bid-build is their livelihood," admitted Murthy, "but design-build brings two important advantages to Metro. First we gain 12-18 months on the overall procurement by overlapping detailed design with construction; and secondly, risk in a design-build procurement is more equally shared between the client and the contractor with the final design having to comply with strict client requirements. The preliminary design is quite prescriptive and while there is room for innovation on means and methods, there will be no experimenting on these projects, as there is zero tolerance on surface settlement and strict compliance on technical and performance criteria. A selective prescriptive design-bid-build approach has been taken forward into the design-build contract documents and all design-build proposals are required to comply with that."
The first of the three new lines into construction is the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX light-rail project following its design-build award in May 2013 to Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors. As one of four proposals, the contract was awarded to Walsh/Shea as the bid with the highest technical score for the lowest price of $1.272 billion. As well as the guideway, which is mostly at-grade, the contract includes construction of eight surface stations and all M&E installations. HNTB and Arup are design engineers to the Walsh/Shea design-build contract.
- The total $2.058 billion budget of the line further includes the cost of planning and design; new rail cars; a rail maintenance yard and facility; real estate acquisition; park-ride lots; and traction power substations. It also includes a contingency fund to which the Metro Board approved an additional $160 million at the time of awarding the main construction contract to the Walsh/Shea JV.
- Notice to proceed was granted in September 2013 and utility relocation is under way. Heavy construction is scheduled to start in Spring 2014 towards an expected completion date by 2019.
Fig 3. Regional Connector will provide a one seat ride across LA
Fig 4. Regional Connector with three new underground stations
Preliminary design of the nearly 2-mile Regional Connector by AECOM/Parson Brinkerhoff is based on an open cut operation along Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles with twin TBM bored running tunnels and an SEM crossover cavern along Second Street to connect the Blue and Expo Line terminus station at the 7th/Metro Center Station to the Gold Line near its Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, which will be replaced underground. The connection will allow passengers to transfer between the Blue, Expo, Red and Purple Lines, bypassing Union Station and provide a one-seat ride for travel across Los Angeles County from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica.
Proposals for the design-build contract were invited in January 2013 and submitted in September 2013 from the four prequalified teams:
• Dragados/Schiavone/Southland JV
• Regional Connector Constructors, a JV of
Skanska USA/Kiewit Infrastructure
• Shea/Walsh/Parsons Transportation Group JV
• Shimmick/Obayashi/FCC JV
- Following evaluation and recommendation to the Board, award of the design-build contract to the 'best and final offer' lowest price proposal, is expected before the end of 2013.
Purple Line Extension
The Final EIS/EIR (Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report) for the 9-mile extension of the Purple Line, from the current terminus station at Wilshire/Western to Century City and Westwood, was certified by the Metro Board under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and a Record Of Decision for approval of the entire alignment according to the Final EIS document was issued by the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in August 2012.
- Following this, and in an attempt to accelerate construction of several projects, including the full 9-mile project in one program, a ballot initiative was taken to the voters of LA County in November 2012. This, however, narrowly missed passage. The plan now, therefore, is to build the first phase of nearly 4 miles with three underground stations by 2023, and follow on with phase two of about 2.5 miles with two underground stations for opening in 2026, and a third phase of about 2.5 miles and two underground stations and planned to open by 2036.
- When the project began its environmental review several years ago, the Purple Line was referred to as the Subway to the Sea because planners studied alternatives that traveled all the way to the City of Santa Monica. As it is, the subsequent Expo light rail surface line is currently being extended from Culver City to Santa Monica and it will be the Metro transit line to the sea. Design of the subway extension resumed in 2007, as the ban on spending Federal dollars on heavy-rail tunneling projects under Wilshire Boulevard was being lifted, and the plan developed for the line to go through the business districts of Beverly Hills and Century City, and terminate at Westwood/VA. One of the Purple Line stations is planned to serve the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
Wilshire Boulevard, under which will run the Purple Line, is one of the busiest urban corridors in the USA
Preliminary design of the first phase of the extension by Parsons Brinckerhoff is now complete and four prequalified groups were invited to submit proposals for the design-build contract in June 2013, for submission by the 19 December 2013 due date. The prequalified groups are:
• Impregilo/Samsung/Salini JV as Westside Transit Partners
• Shimmick/Obayashi/FCC JV
• Skanska/Traylor/Shea JV
• Dragados/Southland/Astaldi JV
- As with all of the current major rail transit projects, the decision by Metro to use design-build instead of design-bid-build is to take advantage of the potentially faster delivery of the method. Metro Project Director Dennis Mori explained: "Metro has the experience to manage either procurement strategy. The previous Eastside Gold Line was procured under a hybrid scheme with design-build for the surface works and design-bid-build for the underground section. Before that, the North Hollywood Red Line underground extension through the Santa Monica Mountains was a design-bid-build procurement. Both were built and finished on time and within budget. While design-build for the Purple Line was a decision to reduce procurement time, the contract documents contain several prescriptive elements to ensure compatibility and integration with the existing infrastructure. The design-build proposals are open to innovative means-and-method ideas, and include early contractor involvement, solicited by Metro through an Industry Constructability Review. The design-build approach by Metro has been very transparent, and the four design-build prequalified teams have been supplied with all the relevant preliminary design information, including more than 3,000 CAD drawings. The underground works have also been developed using the CAD 3-D BIM (Building Information Modeling) approach and the CAD drawing files have been provided to the prequalified teams."
Fig 5. Three phases of the underground heavy rail Purple Line extension beneath Wilshire Boulevard
- Control within the design-build concept covers several aspects of the works. The TBMs for the running tunnels are specified as pressurized face TBMs (EPB or Slurry TBMs) that must have certification for gassy ground operation and have the ability to build the precast concrete bolted and gasketed segmental lining with strict control over any potential for surface movement. "There will be no mined alternatives for the three open cut underground stations," said Mori.
- As the four prequalified teams prepare their proposals, early utility relocation at station sites is underway and an exploratory shaft has being sunk near the La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Boulevard to investigate and continually monitor the gassy nature of the ground through the construction period. This early work is in response to issues that were raised during the Industry Constructability Review to reduce and manage risks. Notice to proceed was issued to Innovative Construction Solutions in January (2013), and installation of shoring piles began in July. Construction is scheduled for completion in January next year (2014) in readiness for a 9-month data monitoring period.
Exploratory shaft site for data collection in advance of TBM tunneling
- Also confirmed in July (2013) is a construction management support services contract (CMSS) with the Stantec-Jacobs Engineering partnership. Parsons Brinckerhoff will continue to provide design support services during the construction phase and the funding for the first year of the $83 million, 11-year CMSS contract with Stantec-Jacobs Engineering was approved to cover construction of the Purple Line extension Section 1. Following a notice to proceed in August, the CMSS services include expertise to oversee the exploratory shaft and early utility relocation works and will continue with management of the work for modifications to the existing Division 20 maintenance yard and facilities, and provide resources to assist Metro with management of the project until the start of revenue service.
- Similar to the management model introduced on the previous Gold Line extension, all members of the management teams will be combined in an integrated project management office (IPMO) on-site to ensure close coordination and management to control the works of the design-build contractor.
Funding of the works
Funding for the three new Metro projects is a combination of allocations from different Federal Government sources with matching local funds allocated principally from Measure R revenue and contributed from LA City and other municipalities. Measure R is a half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in November 2008 to fund transport and transit projects in the County. The measure is expected to raise up to $40 billion over its 30-year lifespan.
- LA City funding is allocated by the City Government and under the leadership of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who was elected in 2013 and took over from previous Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who was himself a strong supporter of Metro and public transportation in Los Angeles. Mayor Garcetti campaigned in his election in support of Metro's current light- and heavy-transit projects. The City is also a partner in transit construction projects as they impact city streets, urban utilities, businesses and citizens. There are co-management groups in the Mayor's office to oversee the overlapping projects.
Excavation of exploratory shaft underway for data monitoring
- For the funding for Phase 1 of the Purple Line, Metro is applying for a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which includes FTA New Starts funds and also funded by the Federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program that provides Federal credit assistance to qualifying transportation projects. Matching local funds are allocated from Measure R revenue and contributions from the City's and other local funding sources.
- With proposals for the Purple Line contract due on 19 December 2013, award of contract is scheduled for May 2014 after confirmation of the Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement from the FTA, which is expected in early 2014.
- The majority funding for the $1.399 billion Regional Connector and the $2.058 billion Crenshaw/LAX LRT is from Measure R revenues with a $546 million loan agreement also from the FTA for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.
- With $6 billion of work currently in procurement, Metro will be spending about $4-5 million/day when construction on all three transit lines is progressing at the same time. "These are major capital investments," said Murthy. "Construction costs are higher today than they were in the past. As well as higher equipment and materials costs, safety requirements are higher, labour regulations are higher, public demands on projects are higher, and higher commitments to more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statements all contribute to the project cost. All elements have a price tag. There will be a learning curve also for the international contractors in the bidding groups which will contribute to the ultimate turnout costs of each project."
Installing excavation support piles
- "Among my flags of concern at this stage are for the individuals that the competing groups nominate as the managers in their teams," Murthy continued. "There are specific qualifications for the top management individuals with stiff penalties to pay if those nominated in the successful proposal fail to join the project. Cooperative relationships are also needed among and with the client teams. This is promoted via the central integrated site offices for management of the contracts."
- Another concern for Murthy is to stay within the budget constraints of Measure R funding. "There can be no bids over the budgets," he said. "Value engineering will have to keep the costs of the projects within the budgets."
- To monitor the value and estimates of the new projects, and as was the case before going ahead with the Gold Line Extension, Metro engaged a peer review panel that comprises members of APTA, the American Public Transit Association. For Murthy "there can be no room for second guessing decisions once contracts are awarded and the approval of the APTA review panel is an endorsement of the planning and procurement strategies we have adopted."
- Metro also continues engagement of its independent Tunnel Advisory Panel of leading US engineers, which today comprises Geoff Martin, Harvey Parker and Ed Cording. Further management and control of the construction contracts is offered by appointment of DRB (Dispute Resolution Board) and the inclusion of a GBR (Geotechnical Baseline Report) as a contract document for each project with a different writer of the GBR and different members in a DRB for each.
- Despite the considerable cost and the high contribution of local Measure R taxpayers' money into their procurement, the three new lines are reported to have valuable public and political support. Local politicians appreciate the benefits transit projects bring to local economies. Urban areas previously blighted become 'go to' places, rather than 'no go' and attract significant commercial and residential investment. For the travelling public, a 25-minute journey from downtown LA to Westwood on the extended Purple Line will be a particularly welcome alternative to the current frustratingly slow rush hour crawl on the congested Wilshire Boulevard above. Metro managers and their engaged consultants and professionals are working overtime to get the lines built and into operation by their promised due dates.
Car capital takes to the underground - TunnelTalk, April 1988
What is going on in Los Angeles? - TunnelTalk, June 1995
New start for LA Metro contracting - TunnelTalk, September 2005
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