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LA breaks ground on Purple Line extension 20 Nov 2014

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk

Despite strong protests by competing bidders and by leading members of its governing body, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) stayed with its July majority Board vote to award the Purple Line Westside extension Phase 1 contract to the Skanska/Traylor/Shea (STS) JV and sealed the deal with a ground breaking ceremony earlier this month on Friday 7 November.

Groundbreaking for Phase I of the Purple Line Extension
Groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Purple Line Extension

With a bid of nearly $200 million higher in price than the lowest bid of the two shortlisted competitors, but with the best overall evaluation score, the STS JV will build the 6.25km (3.9-mile) of twin-tube running tunnels and three new underground stations for the first phase of the Purple Line extension for a design-build contract valued at $1.636 billion. Protests against the recommended award of contract by the Metro Construction Committee were lodged ahead of the July Metro Board meeting and although those protests were heard at the meeting, the Board voted 9-3 to award the contract to STS. Both protestors appealed the vote and the Board agreed to conduct an official investigation into allegations by the two unsuccessful bidders of bid evaluation irregularities.

With confirmation of the Purple Line Phase 1 contract, STS JV partners will be involved in the three large Metro projects currently underway in Los Angeles. Skanska/Traylor JV is progressing the 3km (1.9-mile) long Regional Connector project to connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines under Downtown LA for a contract of nearly $1 billion; and Shea is in JV with Walsh on Metro’s 13.5km (8.5-mile) Crenshaw/LAX light rail line that will run between the Expo Blue Line and the Metro Green Line with a link to the LAX international airport for a contract price of nearly $1.3 billion. Phases 2 and 3 of the Purple Line will take the twin-tube underground alignment through four further underground stations to a new terminus at the VA Hospital in Westwood.

Phase 1 of the Purple Line underway
Phase 1 of the Purple Line underway

A request by TunnelTalk, on the day of the groundbreaking, to know the outcome of the protest, received a written reply from the Metro Media Relations department that explained: “Metro does not convene a formal committee or conduct formal hearings to address protests. Metro does not file reports concerning responses to allegations and does not provide a list of participants who took part in the protest responses.” There was however, an item on the Metro Board meeting agenda on Thursday 13 November to receive an oral report on the denial of protest appeals as requested by Director Knabe at the November 6, 2014 meeting and with the unanimous consent of the Construction Committee.

At the 13 November Board meeting, a representative of the Westside Transit Partners (WTP), one of the protestors, was invited by Metro Chair and Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, to open the agenda item with a statement. “Our joint venture,” said the WTP representative, “received the highest score for its price proposal and the second highest overall score on this project. We are hopeful to work with Metro in the future and we are disappointed in the process. As you know, we protested the award and have asked the FTA to intercede. We have received [Metro’s] denial of our protest and appeal. The denial was essentially based on Metro’s sole discretion to waive or interpret any of the rules and requirements of the [procurement] RFP.

“We do not think this is a proper basis for the [contract] award or for Metro to get the benefits of innovation or competition. Even though you have chosen not to award this project to Westside Transit Partners, and regardless of the outcome of our protest to the FTA, we request that Metro takes a close look at its evaluations procedures and whether it is giving proposals an even and fair playing field. Otherwise,” he warned, ”it is very likely that you will only receive one bid on these big Metro projects in the future.”

In his statement to the Board, the Deputy Executive Officer of Metro Construction for Procurement explained the process of responding to the two lodged protests. “Simply speaking,” he explained, “we put together an independent procurement team that was supported by the Office of the Inspector General, our Diversity and Economic Opportunity [Office] and the [LA] County Council to respond to the protest. That team, led by the Deputy Executive Office of Contract Administration and Administration and Policy, responded to the protest and denied that protest. There was an appeal [which] was reviewed and determined based on findings based on the lead taken by the County Council [which] was supported of course by the [Metro] Project team and other representatives from the Agency and that was our process.”

The Purple Line extension will add 14.4km of new subway to the network
The Purple Line extension will add 14.4km of new subway to the network

To close the agenda item, LA Mayor and Metro Chair Garcetti noted “the protests and the staff testimony received and filed for the record”.

A schedule for when the FTA might reply to the appeal by Westside Transit Partners to intercede on the matter is not known.

At the official groundbreaking on 7 November, Mayor of Los Angeles and Chair of the Metro Board, Eric Garcetti, led proceedings and was joined by other Metro Board members and California members of Congress, Representative Henry Waxman and US Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti leads the groundbreaking ceremony with (seated from left) California Representative Henry Waxman, Metro Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti leads the groundbreaking ceremony with (seated from left) California Representative Henry Waxman, Metro Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein

“When it comes to infrastructure, LA is on the move,” said Garcetti. “We are right now investing US $36 billion in our transportation infrastructure to ease congestion and create thousands of jobs. Altogether, this is the largest public works project in the nation. In the car capital of the world, we are looking to reduce traffic and cut air pollution by giving people car-free options to get to work and play.”

Senator Feinstein said: “I applaud the efforts of everyone who helped us reach this point, but we have work left to do. Future phases will require an estimated $3.5 billion and I will continue to support Federal funding to complete this important transit project.”

Metro forecasts that the 3.9-mile Phase 1 extension of the Purple Line from the existing Wilshire/Western Purple Line terminus to link three new underground stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega in Beverly Hills, will open in 2023. Phase 2, with two stations at Wilshire/Rodeo and Century City, is scheduled for completion in 2026; and Phase 3 with two stations at Westwood/UCLA and Westwood/VA Hospital, is planned to open in 2035.

Route of the 13.5km Crenshaw/LAX light rail line
Route of the 13.5km Crenshaw/LAX light rail line

The budget for Phase 1 is $2.821 billion and is funded partially by the Measure R sales tax increase that was approved overwhelmingly by two-thirds of LA County voters in 2008, plus a $1.25 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration and a low-interest loan of $856 million from the US Department of Transportation via the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). At nearly $2 billion these commitments represent the largest Federal transportation investment for a single construction segment in the history of Los Angeles County.

In efforts to accelerate construction of Phase 2, Metro is currently seeking a $1.1 billion grant from the Federal New Starts program and a $307 million low-interest loan from the Federal TIFIA program.

Regional Connector progress and Crenshaw/LAX Line TBM delivery

In the meantime, design-build work is progressing on detailed design of the Regional Connector ahead of the start of major construction by the Skanska/Traylor Bros JV and its lead designer Hatch Mott MacDonald; and on the Crenshaw/LAX Line by the Walsh/Shea design-build JV with designers HNTB and Arup.

The Regional Connector was awarded to the Skanska/Traylor Bros JV in June for a contract bid of $918 million. The contract comprises design and construction of a 3km underground connection of light rail transit and three new stations. Preliminary design 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. This will connect the Blue and Expo Line terminus at the 7th/Metro Center Station to the Gold Line near its Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, which will be replaced underground.

Herrenknecht TBM for the Crenshaw/LAX Line
Herrenknecht TBM for the Crenshaw/LAX Line

Design-build construction of the $2.058 billion 13.5km (8.5-mile) long Crenshaw/LAX light rail project was awarded to the Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors in May 2013 for a lowest bid price of $1.272 billion. As well as the guideway, which comprises at-grade, elevated and underground sections, the contract includes construction of eight stations, three of them underground, and all the M&E installations.

Construction of the three underground stations at Crenshaw/Exposition, Crenshaw/MLK and Crenshaw/Vernon is progressing with installation of support piling ahead of open cut station box excavation.

Linking the three underground stations is 3km (1.9-miles) of twin-tube TBM bored running tunnels. To complete the parallel drives, the Walsh/Shea JV has procured a Herrenknecht TBM and is awaiting its arrival. The TBM was loaded for shipment in October in Rotterdam and is expected to arrive in Los Angeles by the end of the year. Once received and assembled, the TBM is expected to be into its first drive by mid-2015. The line is scheduled for completion by 2019.

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