Metro Celebrates Purple Line Extension 1 Tunnel Machines, Set to Start in August

Cutter head of one of Metro's Tunnel Boring Machines extending the Purple Line. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Cutter head of one of Metro's Tunnel Boring Machines extending the Purple Line. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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In a ceremony this morning, Metro celebrated the two tunnel boring machines (TBM) that will dig the Purple Line subway westward. The $2.8 billion Metro Purple Line Extension phase 1 will tunnel 3.9 miles under Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard.

The festivities took place at the Metro Wilshire/Fairfax construction yard, across from the L.A. County Museum of Art. On display were the massive purple TBM cutter heads and the cylindrical TBM shield. Both are 21.5 feet in diameter.

The ceremony featured L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins, and two students who won contests to name and decorate the TBMs. Fairfax High School student Marianne Gutierrez submitted the winning essay naming the TBMs. Gutierrez named them “Elsie” and “Soyeon” – for astronaut Yi Soyeon and pioneering engineer Elsie Eavers – in order to encourage more women and girls to achieve in scientific careers. Palm Crest Elementary School student Lauren Park won the TBM art contest. Park’s winning drawing graces the TBM’s outer shell or shield.

Metro broke ground on the Purple Line phase 1 construction in late 2014. Today, Wiggins reported that the project is 34 percent complete with “excellent progress on all fronts.”

Tunneling for phase 1 will begin in August and will continue for about two years. In order to advance more quickly, tunneling for this phase includes two identical TBMs. The tunnel machines will be lowered into the ground at the site of the future Wilshire/La Brea station and will initially tunnel east until they are adjacent to the existing Wilshire/Western station. From there they will be extracted and returned to La Brea. Then they will tunnel west to La Cienega, where they will actually be set aside and retired without being extracted.

The Purple Line subway extension phase 1 cutter head measures 21.5 feet in diameter
The Purple Line subway extension phase 1 cutter head measures 21.5 feet in diameter
Left to right: Mayor Eric Garcetti, student Marianne Gutierrez who named the TBMs, Councilmember David Ryu, and Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins
Left to right: Mayor Eric Garcetti, student Marianne Gutierrez who named the TBMs, Councilmember David Ryu, and Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins
TBM artist Lauren Park and her parents, in front of the TBM shell that features her artwork
TBM artist Lauren Park and her parents, in front of the TBM shell that features her artwork
Leaders assembled after Lauren Park's TBM artwork was unveiled
Leaders assembled after Lauren Park’s TBM artwork was unveiled

The first Purple Line extension west is planned to open to the public in 2023.

Two additional phases are also underway. Phase 2, which got under construction earlier this year, will take the line to Century City. It is forecast to be completed by 2025. Preliminary construction activities are underway for Phase 3, to the Westwood VA Hospital. The third phase is expected to open in 2026.

Three-phase Westside Purple Line extension map - via Metro
Three-phase Westside Purple Line extension map – via Metro
  • Walt Arrrrr

    Woohoo! Subway to The Sea! Er, Sawtelle.

  • Beginning the Methane Explosions will!

    (And how does Zev always end up at these ceremonies?)

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    I was working at Farmer’s Market on that Sunday. The ground shook like an earthquake.

  • LazyReader

    Celebrating monument to government waste. It’s like LA is getting banged by a giant purple playmate. LA’s rail transit is a miserable failure. It’s also worth noting LA’s rail system is close to 30 years old; the life expectancy of rail systems approach before they either have to be replaced or extensively refurbished.

    In the early 1980s, LA’s transit policy was to boost bus service by keeping fares low, transit ridership grew dramatically. In 1985, when the agency starting building rail, it raised bus fares and cut service to cover cost overruns. Transit ridership plummeted, and did not recover to its 1985 levels until after 2000.

    Bus ridership bottomed out in 1995, when the NAACP sued the transit agency on behalf of a Bus Riders Union for racial discrimination by cutting bus service to poor and neighborhoods while it built expensive rail lines to affluent neighborhoods. A 1996 court order forced the agency to restore bus service. Afterwards the growth of bus service since that time has been much greater (at least through 2007 when the order expired) than total rail ridership. Los Angeles has over 670 miles of freeways
    with more than 5,600 freeway lane miles, most of which pretty much paid
    for themselves out of gas taxes and other highway user fees; of course there are discrepancies and some shortages, but a slight fee increase is sufficient to bring those highways to a level of adequate repair. Meanwhile
    it has less than 80 miles of rail that cost over $8 billion to build, a lot of
    which did not come from transit rider fees. And based on their operating budgets has no hope of assuming responsibility for overhaul and maintenance when; upon the systems are 30 years old they start experiencing the delays, malfunctions and eventually accidents.

  • Actually Measure M includes funds for addressing state of good repair of rail facilities, supplementing the federal grants program (49 USC 5337). The travails of BART and WAMATA from lack of maintenance etc. inspired including funds to repair and undertake mid-life rehabilitation of railcars (which if we had done it to the P865 cars would have lasted at least 10 more years). You do know the Breda subway cars are getting rehabbed by Talgo?

    The late Pat Moser complained to me the early 80 transit ridership boom you cite was miserable for riders, with chronic crowding and outdated vehicles pressed into service.

    The suit was by what then was known as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and there was no court order just a consent decree the court supervised.

    Is SB 1 the slight fee increase you speak of? Past reports of the California Transportation Commission have outlined how short of state of good repair the state freeways are.

    Certainly a dire outcome you predict. But I doubt it is inevitable, just requiring prudent reforms.

    If you want an example of a miserable failure you can talk about local roads. My Access Services driver complained when we did a mid-day trip and were mired in traffic, “where do these people come from? They must not have jobs.”

  • LazyReader

    And the entire bus fleet could have been replaced for a fraction of what it cost to build the lightrail. Measure M — gifting Metro, the county’s transit authority, $120 billion
    over the next 40 years to build a 21st century public transit system using early 20th century technology. And Brown is still pushing this Highspeed rail boondoggle. SB 1. The awards
    include $28.6 million for 40 zero-emission buses in Anaheim and $40.5 million for light-rail vehicles in Sacramento. Los Angeles snagged $330 million to build out its rail transit network in preparation for the 2028 Olympics.
    A total of 28 projects were awarded SB 1 money. None of them involves road upkeep at all.

    SB 1’s spending priorities reflect this. $100 million of the state’s road funding is dedicated to
    “active transportation”—i.e., bike lanes, sidewalks, and recreational trails. Bike lanes built with these funds often come paired with the destruction of existing car lanes, which merely adds to the California drivers’ woes. Meanwhile, about 1 percent of the state’s trip takers use
    bikes. Another $200 million in annual road funding is allotted in “self-help” funds to counties that have increased sales taxes to fund transportation. That would make Los Angeles County eligible, as its voters passed a sales tax hike for that purpose in 2016. The county’s spending plan adopts a “multi-modal” approach, meaning those sales tax dollars and “self-help” funds can easily work their way into mass transit projects. A $250 million congested corridor relief program is similarly prohibited from being spent on adding traditional highway lane miles.

    Meanwhile, taxpayers have little reason to believe that the $2.8 billion in SB1 money that is specifically earmarked for highway and local road maintenance will be spent wisely. According to a report California spends $84,005 per mile to maintain its highways, compared to a national average of $28,020—while ranking 46th in the quality of its urban highways. A basic principle of transportation funding is that users should pay for the infrastructure they use. A gas tax in theory fits the bill by collecting money from the motorists, truck drivers, and transit buses to
    pay for the roads they drive on. California apparently prefers to spending its gas tax dollars and vehicle registration fees to pay for modes of transportation the motorists don’t use. So why do California motorists (some of the most heavily taxed in the nation) have to pay for both road upkeep and transit simultaneously while transit riders wouldn’t have to do the same.

    Most people know Japan’s economy lost a decade (actually two), but few people really know why. The government-owned but supposedly profitable Japanese National Railways borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars against its extensive land holdings in order to build and operate high-speed trains demanded by politicians. In 1987, the government privatized the rail lines (selling them well below cost) and planned to sell the company’s land to make up the difference. But the planned land sales helped to prick the nation’s property bubble, and taxpayers instead absorbed much of the debt. Since then, Japan’s economy has been sluggish despite (or, more accurately, partly because of) the fact that the government continues to build little-used high-speed rail lines. California’s history is a little different, but the lesson is clear: building obsolete transportation systems will do nothing to help the economy. For California’s sake, we can only hope they stop building when they run out of the money.

  • Perias Pillay

    Instead of the alliterative Subway to the Sea, we’re getting the rhyming Subway to the VA.

  • My, my. More of what one commenter very colorfully dubbed “timecube-grade keyboard spew” responding to your comments on another Streetsblog network article. You duck acknowledging any of the misinformation you said before and continue lobbing what I call bricks — very long posts intended to drown out and intimidate.

    Yes, let us saddle the region with a burgeoning bus fleet with the concomitant pollution, congestion and cost. What a brilliant vision for the future! BTW, where do we maintain and store this huge fleet you promote? Bus yards are something damned hard to overcome NIMBYism to locate a site for and build.

    “Early 20th century technology”. You mean like toilets? Future tech is always best! “Highspeed rail boondoggle”, oh you mean like backward countries such as France and China have?

    I am sure your version of Japanese history is similarly skewed as the rest of your comments.

    And you persist mis-stating roads are paid for with gas tax money after a thread on a different article had you finally simply decare we should raise tolls on auto use after being forced to admit it isn’t so. Even your basic right wing Republican legislator will balk at that idea.

    Hopefully somebody is paying you to be a propogandist. Hate to think somebody puts themselves at risk of carpal tunnel just because of a fixation on telling everyone why they have the right to your opinion. Hey, and those failed Japanese bullet trains sure carry a lot of people.

    Do your shadow masters provide good dental coverage. Gritting your teeth continually while pounding a keyboard pushing DOA dogma, misinformation etc via lengthy comments puts you in danger of harming your enamel.

    Have a happy life being extreme, self-righteous and out of touch. Ta-ta!

  • Vooch

    I think Elon’s TBM is more likely to ignite methane

  • Joe Linton

    Big LOL on “Los Angeles… freeways… most of which pretty much paid for themselves out of gas taxes and other highway user fees”!!! Where did you get this talking point? Federal, state, and local transportation costs are paid for by sales-property-income taxes, with gas and car taxes paying a shrinking minority portion… but folks like you keep asserting that roads pay for themselves… it’s just not true.

  • com63

    how do you increase user fees on a “free”way?


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