Beverly Hills and Metro Look to Speed Subway Construction During COVID-19 Traffic Lull

Rendering of future Wilshire/Rodeo Purple Line station in Beverly Hills - via Metro
Rendering of future Wilshire/Rodeo Purple Line station in Beverly Hills - via Metro

Tomorrow, the Beverly Hills City Council will vote on a proposal to approve temporary street closures to facilitate faster construction of Metro’s Purple Line Subway extension. In tough times, this is modest good news – a win-win for Metro, for Beverly Hills, and for the region. With a lull in tourists, drivers, hotel occupants, etc. Beverly Hills can get construction activity completed with little additional disruption. Metro can save time and money by speeding up the subway project.

The city of Beverly Hills – and especially its School District – fought against the now under-construction subway extensions. The city itself has gradually become somewhat more welcoming of (or at least resigned to) the project, looking to add a another station entrance at Wilshire/Rodeo and improve first/last mile connections to future stations.

As subway construction approached, the city of Beverly Hills and Metro proceeded to negotiate memoranda of agreement (MOAs) designed to minimize construction impacts. The MOAs include limiting construction days/hours, noise, traffic impacts, etc. – including a month-long holiday season hiatus from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Beverly Hills, as an exceptional tourism and retail destination, demanded and received exceptional terms – limiting Metro construction there more than  limits in other Southern California cities. The latest MOA resulted in change order cost increases of more than a half-million dollars – but that was just the cost of doing business for multi-billion dollar transit construction through Beverly Hills.

Fast forward to the COVID-19 present. According to the staff report, Beverly Hills is seeing temporary business closures, and reduced vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Working with Metro, city staff have proposed “expedit[ing] subway construction [to] minimize future impacts of the project during the future economic recovery period.” Beverly Hills is looking to approve MOA changes that would greenlight “temporary full closures of Wilshire Boulevard” as well as undoing some other construction limitations.

Wilshire Boulevard piling construction had been planned to start in April and be complete in August. The proposed changes would accelerate piling activities to be complete in one month.

Following the piling, additional construction – “installation of cap beams, dewatering wells, and geotechnical instrumentation” – had been scheduled for “13 weekend closures over approximately 3.5 months.” With the holiday construction hiatus, this was scheduled to be completed by March 2021. With full street closures, the piling and other tasks can proceed right after each other, and would all be expected to be completed by September 2020, accelerating construction by six months.

Additional information, including community outreach, detours, and more specifics are available in the Beverly Hills staff report and this Metro notice. The expedited construction proposal will be voted on by the Beverly Hills City Council at their 2:30 p.m. meeting (agenda) tomorrow.

Correction 3/30 10 a.m. : the meeting was initially reported as today – but is tomorrow – Tuesday March 31.

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