Metro Receives Key Federal Approval for Westside Purple Line Extension Section 3

Federal approval means that construction can proceed on the third phase extending the Metro Purple Line. Photo: Wikimedia
Federal approval means that construction can proceed on the third phase extending the Metro Purple Line. Photo: Wikimedia
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At this morning’s Metro Construction Committee, CEO Phil Washington announced that Metro had received a federal letter of no prejudice (LONP) for construction to proceed on the third phase of the Westside Purple Line. Washington aptly described this as a “big deal,” as this was the first major transit project that this administration has approved to proceed to the federal New Starts engineering phase.

Under the current administration, there is a significant backlog of transit project funding that was already approved by Congress, but not yet distributed to localities to build projects. The Federal Transit Administration has been delaying funding for transit projects in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Durham, New York City, Milwaukee, Seattle, and elsewhere.

Three-phase Westside Purple Line extension map - via Metro
Three-phase Westside Purple Line extension map – via Metro

Metro is extending the Purple Line heavy rail subway nearly nine miles westward in three sections. Phases one and two are already under construction and expected to open in 2023 and 2025, respectively. Phase three is expected to cost $1.3 billion (updated: this is only the tunneling cost) and will extend the subway 2.6 miles from Century City to Westwood and the V.A. Hospital.

The federal letter of no prejudice covers an initial $491 million, nearly all for tunnel construction. The LONP guarantees that the feds will reimburse the local expenditures under a forthcoming full-funding grant agreement (FFGA).

Metro had anticipated the federal funding would be approved several months earlier. The agency had already gone through a competitive process to approve a contractor bid for tunnel boring. That bid is about to “go stale” by expiring in early October, which would likely mean re-opening the selection process. The LONP directs Metro to work with its contractor to extend the bid expiration deadline so the final tunneling arrangements get the go-ahead by early December. Metro’s Chief Program Management Officer Richard Clarke stated that the agency had already touched base with the contractor and that extending the bid arrangement by two months did not appear to be a problem.

In August, Metro received proposals for the rest of section three construction, including stations, track work, and systems.

Washington acknowledged Metro Board Chair County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti for their actions to secure the federal approval. He also emphasized that the federal letter means that Purple Line construction is on track to be completed in time to serve people attending the 2028 Olympic Games.

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