Metro Expected to Approve Final Purple Line Subway Section 3 Contract this Week
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At its monthly meeting tomorrow, the Metro Board is expected to approve staff recommendations for completing the Westside Purple Line extension Section 3. Specifically, the board would approve the project’s overall $3.2 billion budget, and award contractor Tutor Perini a $1.36 billion design/build contract for stations, trackwork, systems and testing. The latest contract is contingent on receiving a final federal full funding grant agreement (FFGA).
This section is the last of three current phases that extend the Purple Line subway west. Sections one and two are already under construction and anticipated to be completed in 2023 and 2025, respectively. Section three will extend 2.59 miles from Century City to the Westwood VA Hospital.
In June, 2018, the Metro board approved a $410 million contract to Frontier-Kemper/Tutor Perini JV for just the tunneling portion of Purple Line Section 3. That approval was contingent on Metro receiving a delayed go-ahead letter from the federal government, which arrived in September, just before the tunneling bid would have expired.
Now Metro is about to award the contract for the remaining work to complete Section 3.
As with the Foothill Gold Line and other construction contracts, prices are going up. In the Measure M expenditure plan, the Purple Line was estimated to cost $1.98 billion in 2015 dollars. Section 2 of the Purple Line extension – which has the same mileage and same number of stations – is costing $2.4 billion, in contrast with Section 3, now at $3.2 billion.
In June, when the tunnel contract was approved, Metro’s staff report acknowledged some increased costs, citing increased property acquisition costs, an added crossover, and some additional contingency set-asides mandated by the Federal Transit Administration. In an email to SBLA, Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero stated that inflation in a hot construction market is a factor in cost increases between sections 2 and 3.
One factor contributing to delays and cost increases is the federal government’s tardiness in getting congress-approved project dollars to transit agencies. Metro is still waiting for the Section 3 FFGA that was anticipated about a year ago. Had the feds approved the FFGA in early 2018, construction contracts could have been awarded sooner. Instead, as Metro’s governmental affairs director asserted at a recent committee meeting, the FFGA had been further delayed during the federal government shutdown. It should arrive any day now.
None of this is to say that this important project should not be approved this week. To avoid further cost escalation, it is important that Metro get the final Purple Line extension project design and build underway now, without further delays. Moving forward now should mean the full Purple Line will be open in time for the 2028 Olympics.