Crenshaw Light Rail Construction Hovers At 93 Percent Complete, Opening Could Be Delayed

Test train on Metro's Crenshaw Line - photo via Metro
Test train on Metro's Crenshaw Line - photo via Metro
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According to Metro reports, it is pretty clear that the opening of Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line is likely to be delayed. Again. The light rail line was expected to open by June 2020, but an October 2o2o opening now appears more likely.

Map of Metro's nearly completed Crenshaw/LAX line
Map of Metro’s nearly-completed Crenshaw/LAX line

Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX project is a $2 billion, 8.5-mile light rail line extending from the Expo Line’s Exposition/Crenshaw station to the Green Line’s Aviation Station. The line will connect to LAX via a people mover, expected in 2023.

When Crenshaw broke ground in early 2014, the line was anticipated to open in fall 2019 – right now.

In November 2018, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced that the opening date had been pushed back to June 2020. At that time, Washington stated that construction was ninety percent complete and substantial completion was expected in December 2019.

Typically, after substantial completion the agency spends six months testing before opening the line to the public, or in agency jargon, “revenue operation.”

Twitter user @numble posted a series of screenshots from Metro Construction Committee status reports that make it pretty clear that the Crenshaw opening will be pushed back.

Metro Crenshaw construction status from March and July 2019 - via @Numble
Metro Crenshaw construction status from March and July 2019 – via @numble
Metro Crenshaw construction status from September and October 2019 - via @Numble
Metro Crenshaw construction status from September and October 2019 – via @numble

In March, Metro’s progress report showed an anticipated Spring 2020 opening date. Earlier this month, that date was updated to Summer/Fall 2020.

Streetsblog contacted Metro for a comment on the Crenshaw construction situation. Agency spokesperson Jose Ubaldo shared the following statement:

Metro and Walsh Shea Corridor constructions continue to work together to complete all necessary work to deliver a safe, high-quality and world-class project.

Construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is a very complex undertaking. The project features nearly every type of light rail alignment – aerial, underground, and at-grade, and eight new stations, including three that are underground.

Due to the dynamic nature of the project, the highly complex construction required, and the critical testing components necessary for Fire Life Safety, our contractor expects substantial completion to occur in [calendar year] 2020.

Metro is committed to delivering a safe system upon completion of final safety testing and operator training in [calendar year] 2020. Metro will announce an opening date at a later time.

Though Metro did not state a new opening date at this time, their statement acknowledges that substantial completion is now expected in 2020, which contrasts with last year’s substantial completion forecast of December 2019.

Metro’s September 2019 Crenshaw Quarterly Status Report shows that the contractor is currently 153 days behind the anticipated substantial completion date of December 11, 2019 (which was a revised date set in 2018). That report shows substantial completion is now forecast to be May 12, 2020, with testing pushing anticipated revenue operation to begin October 24, 2020. But those dates are overly exact. Metro anticipates “part of the alleged delay could be mitigated” by working with the contractor to resolve issues – though it is also possible that additional delays could cause the date to slip further into the future.

Crenshaw/LAX construction schedule showing an October 24 2020 opening day - via Metro Quarterly Report
Crenshaw/LAX construction schedule showing an anticipated October 2020 opening day – via Metro Status Report

That status report mentions some of the issues resulting in delays. These include:

Several areas of work along the alignment that is the responsibility of the contractor to perform could not be completed due to damaged, incomplete, and missing components. This has caused the contractor’s progress to be less than planned, impacting the follow-on subcontractors’ work and creating inefficient performance.

Contractor has been investigating and addressing blocked, damaged conduits and systems pathways in tunnels and underground stations. […] The magnitude of damage to conduit appears to be significantly greater than originally known by the contractor, affecting tunnel invert conduits and station systems including fire alarm system.

At this time, the Crenshaw/LAX budget remains $2.058 billion. The reports flag cost overruns as a possible issue as the project nears completion and draws down its contingency.

These reports might sound somewhat troubling, but they are more or less in line with the norm on multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects. Various highway and rail projects all over the U.S. encounter delays and cost overruns. Some Metro freeway widening projects are currently performing worse with regards to budget and schedule.

Crenshaw’s delays are a disappointment to the community and businesses that are impacted by construction activity – and to transit riders throughout southern California. Hopefully, Metro and its contractor Walsh Shea can resolve delays, complete construction and testing, and give riders a new mobility options about a year from now.

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