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All set for mega metro investment in Los Angeles16 July 2014

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk

Funding is confirmed and design-build contractors are nominated and approved to continue progress of the largest ever, single investment in public transportation in Los Angeles County.

Fig 1. Major underground extensions for LA Metro
Fig 1. Major underground extensions for LA Metro

Confirmation of a $1.25 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration in May is followed by recommendation that a $1.636 billion proposal from the Skanska/Traylor Bros/J.F. Shea (STS) JV for design-build construction of the $2.821 billion first phase of the Purple Line Westside subway extension of the Los Angeles Metro be accepted, thereby realizing a project that has been in the planning and development stages for decades. The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is set to consider and approve the recommendation at its Board meeting next week on 24 July.

The announcement is a significant result for the STS JV as two of its partners, Skanska and Traylor Bros, in a joint venture, were awarded the $927.2 million design-build contract for the Regional Connector project at the April 24 Metro Board meeting and partner Shea is a JV partner in the design-build contract for Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project that will connect the Metro Expo and Metro Green Lines in the Crenshaw and Inglewood corridors. The Regional Connector project will create a 1.9 mile underground link in downtown Los Angeles to connect the Metro Blue, Metro Gold and Metro Expo Lines, create three new underground stations on the system, and provide a single-seat fare ride from Azusa to Long Beach, and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica (Fig 1).

Fig 2. Phase 1 of the Purple Line extension is a design-build proposal of $1.636 billion from the Skanska/Traylor/Shea JV
Fig 2. Phase 1 of the Purple Line extension is a design-build proposal of $1.636 billion from the Skanska/Traylor/Shea JV

The $1.636 billion Purple Line contact includes 3.9 miles (6.25km) of twin-tube TBM running tunnels under Wilshire Boulevard to extend the line from the current terminus at Western Station and create three new underground stations at the intersections with La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega. It also includes train control and signals, communications, traction power supply and distribution systems, and fare collection systems that will integrate with the existing Metro rail network.

Award of the Purple Line Phase 1 contract, as anticipated, will place more than $2.5 billion of new underground metro works in construction and in the hands of three of the leading tunnelling companies in the USA. The JV partners succeeded against three competing proposals for each contract that included major international competition including Dragados with partners Schiavone, Southland and Astaldi, and the Shimmick/Obayashi/FCC JV for both contracts; the Impregilo/Samsung/Salini JV for the Purple Line; and the Shea/Walsh/Parsons Transportation Group JV for the Regional Connector.

For both contracts, the Skanska/Traylor Bros JV and with partner Shea for the Purple Line JV, have offered in their proposals a significant saving of time on the Metro construction schedule. For the Regional Connector it is 115 construction days on an anticipated program of more than 2,000 construction days to a planned completion date in 2020, while on the Purple Line the offered saving is 300 calendar days against Metro’s planned contract completion date of October 2024.

 Fig 3. Design-build of the Regional Connector is a $927.2 million contract for the Skanska/Traylor JV
Fig 3. Design-build of the Regional Connector is a $927.2 million contract for the Skanska/Traylor JV

With its offer to finish 115 days early on the Regional Connector, the Skanska/Traylor Bros JV is also reported by a Metro news release, as offering to “absorb the cost of any delays caused by Metro or subcontractors.” Spokespeople for Metro and for the JV were unavailable to comment in more detail at the time of going to press, but one possibility is that the saving could be considered as a float against which claims for any possible time delays would be offset. Further details have been requested in a planned interview with Bryan Pennington who has become the new head of Engineering and Construction for Metro. Pennington was Metro Project Director for Regional Connector and the Crenshaw/LAX Metro extension before being promoted following the recent retirement of K.N. Murthy as Executive Director of the Metro Transit Project Delivery Construction Project Management department.

In its news releases for both contracts, Metro said that the JV of Skanska/Traylor Bros for the Regional Connector and Skanska/Traylor Bros/Shea for the Purple Line extension, scored highest in the overall proposal evaluations. This includes the highest technical score and the highest evaluated score for pricing, based on the criteria in the request for proposals. Some 40% of the contract evaluation for the $1.636 Purple Line contract proposal was based on price, and STS was said to score highest in this regard; it also scored more highly in its project management and technical approach that the other bidders. The Purple Line tunnels are to be excavated through tar sands and gassy soil conditions, conditions that present similar challenges to those encountered by Traylor Bros during its excavation of running tunnels for the Gold Line project in East Los Angeles that was completed in 2009.

Federal funding matches local revenues

Progress of the Purple Line extension and the Regional Connector project is enabled in large part by recent agreement of substantial Federal funding agreements and by the ‘Measure R’ proposal that voters in Los Angeles County approved in the ballot of November 2008. The approval was for a half-cent sales tax increase, which is expected to raise up to $40 billion over its 30-year lifespan to fund specifically transport and transit projects in the County. To these local funds, the US Government has agreed to make available more than $2 billion in funding through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and other Federal funding vehicles.

The Regional Connector project has a life-of-project total budget of $1.420 billion and to this the Federal Government has agreed a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the FTA of $670 million and a further $160 million low interest federal loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) fund.

The Purple Line Metro extension follows the Wilshire Blvd traffic corridor

For the Purple Line Phase 1 project, Metro announced receipt of the $1.25 billion FFGA from the FTA plus an additional $856 million as a low-interest TIFIA loan from the US Department of Transportation. Combined, the nearly $2 billion in project commitments represent the single biggest Federal transportation investment in the history of Los Angeles County, according to the Metro press statement. The remaining $821 million in project funding for the estimated $2.821 billion Phase 1 project comes from Measure R revenues and allocations from the City of Los Angeles and other existing local and Federal sources.

With funding in place and recommendation of a design-build contractor about to be confirmed, construction of the near 4 mile, $2.821 billion segment of the long-awaited Metro Purple Line extension toward West Los Angeles is set to begin. Two subsequent construction phases to be let as future and separate design-build contracts will eventually extend the Purple Line subway westward for nearly 9 miles (15km) to just past UCLA and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood with a total of seven new stations. Under its three-phase construction schedule, the total project is forecast to cost $6.3 billion. Measure R funds will pay for approximately three-fourths of the overall project cost and Metro is pursuing alternative funding sources that could accelerate construction of the two following segments.

Leading state and local politicians were present at the announcement of the Federal funding agreements. These included Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Council member Diane DuBois, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti, and California Congressman Henry Waxman, who led a successful campaign in the 1990s to ban further Federal funding for underground Metro construction work in Los Angeles following a natural gas explosion that occurred in 1985 in the Fairfax area north of Wilshire Boulevard and through which new underground sections were to be constructed. Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was a strong supporter of Metro and of public transportation in Los Angeles, was instrumental in having the Waxman ban overturned and for paving the way for passage of the Measure R ballot, both of which were essential in bringing Metro development in Los Angeles to the current program of multi billion dollar investment.

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