The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has approved Metro’s request to be reimbursed for early work activities for Section Three of the Purple Line Extension project between Century City and the Westwood/VA Hospital. The approval also clears the way for Metro to take advantage of highly competitive tunnel contract bids, which have come in lower than expected and would save the project an estimated US$130m (£100m). The tunneling bids were at risk to expire on 3 October. In addition, the FTA’s approval avoids the need to rebid the tunnel contract, saving an additional US$200m in projected escalation costs and nearly two years of project delay.
The “letter of no prejudice” (LONP) permits Metro to incur costs using non-federal resources with the understanding that costs incurred after the letter’s approval may be reimbursable if the project is chosen for federal funding later.
The LONP will take effect upon FTA’s final review of technical refinements to the project, which are being finalized by Metro. Metro will then issue a ‘notice to proceed’ to the contractor, Frontier-Kemper/Tutor Perini Joint Venture, which has agreed to extend its bid price to 3 December 2018 to accommodate FTA’s final environmental review.
In August, Section Three was cleared to enter the engineering phase of the FTA Capital Investment Grants Program. Two earlier subway extension sections have already received federal funding. Metro is now seeking a US$1.3bn grant for Section Three through the FTA’s New Starts Program and anticipates a grant agreement will be forthcoming in early 2019.
Overall, Metro’s revised LONP, submitted to the FTA on 30 August, reduced the agency’s ask from US$786m for early work activities to US$492m based on favorable tunneling contract bids and other project efficiencies.
“LA Metro is working hard to complete all three phases of the Purple Line Extension project prior to the 2028 Olympics, seven years ahead of schedule,” said US Senator Dianne Feinstein. “I intend to make sure the federal government continues to be a good partner in this effort and helps keep the project moving forward as we prepare to welcome the world to Los Angeles.”
The Purple Line Extension’s first two sections are under construction between Wilshire/Western and Century City. When all three sections are complete, the subway extension will travel approximately nine miles underground between Koreatown and Westwood. Major construction of the first section between Koreatown and Beverly Hills began in 2015.
Construction of the second section between Beverly Hills and Century City started in 2017. Section Three, scheduled to begin construction in 2019, will complete the subway to Westwood. The entire line is on track to open by 2026, in time for the 2028 LA Olympic and Paralympic Games.