How Los Angeles Voted to Help Commuters With the Purple Line Extension

Voter-approved funds to expand Los Angeles’ subway system

Once completed in 2040,

the three-part extension project would enable Los Angelenos to travel from Downtown to Westwood in around 25 minutes.

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A shaft at the Wilshire/La Brea subway station worksite is more than 70 feet deep.
A shaft at the Wilshire/La Brea subway station worksite is more than 70 feet deep.
A crane looms overhead at the site of the future Wilshire/La Brea subway station.
A crane looms overhead at the site of the future Wilshire/La Brea subway station.
Excavation takes place at the Wilshire/Fairfax site.
Excavation takes place at the Wilshire/Fairfax site.
Workers work on installing a level at the future Wilshire/Fairfax station.
Workers work on installing a level at the future Wilshire/Fairfax station.
Workers work on installing a level at the future Wilshire/Fairfax station.
Workers work on installing a level at the future Wilshire/Fairfax station.
A crane at the Wilshire/La Brea worksite
A crane at the Wilshire/La Brea worksite
A sign displayed at the entrance of the field office of the Purple Line Extension Project.
A sign displayed at the entrance of the field office of the Purple Line Extension Project.
A worker directs a bulldozer and loads dirt from the excavation shaft of the Wilshire/La Brea worksite onto a truck.
A worker directs a bulldozer and loads dirt from the excavation shaft of the Wilshire/La Brea worksite onto a truck.
A worker directs a bulldozer and loads dirt from the excavation shaft of the Wilshire/La Brea worksite onto a truck.
A worker directs a bulldozer and loads dirt from the excavation shaft of the Wilshire/La Brea worksite onto a truck.
A close-up of a crane at the Wilshire/La Brea worksite.
A close-up of a crane at the Wilshire/La Brea worksite.
A worker at the Wilshire/La Brea site.
A worker at the Wilshire/La Brea site.
A worker at the Wilshire/La Brea site.
A worker at the Wilshire/La Brea site.
The excavation shaft at the Wilshire/La Brea worksite.
The excavation shaft at the Wilshire/La Brea worksite.

Sometime in 2018, two tunnel boring machines – each weighing 1,000-ton – will arrive from Germany. Workers will guide the drill for almost four miles to dig twin tunnels under Downtown Los Angeles as they race to wrap up phase one of the Purple Line Extension.

Once completed in 2040, the three-part extension project would enable Los Angelenos to travel from Downtown to Westwood in around 25 minutes. Currently, phase one is under construction. Slated to complete in 2023, it will add three new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

Because the tunneling will go through tar pits and oil fields, which are rich in asphalt deposits, it will be easier to preserve Ice Age fossils in the area, said Bethany Ader, a paleontologist working on the project.

“I am excited about digging at Fairfax station, because it’s right next to La Brea Tar Pits, so fingers-crossed that we find really cool stuff there,” Ader said. “We don’t have quite have dinosaurs here, we’re not quite old enough.

“So the only dinosaurs we would find would be birds. But mostly, they would be Ice Age animals, mammals like mastodons and saber tooth cats.”

Apart from fossils, the gassy soil conditions could also present challenges for workers underground, requiring strict environmental monitoring and extensive ventilation systems.

The second phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by 2026 – just in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics.

The estimated cost of the project is $7.89 billion, with a majority of the funding expected to come from two sales tax increases that voters approved in 2008 and 2016, along with a federal grant and loan of nearly $1.5 billion.

Key Voices

From a paleontologist to a construction manager to a commuter, here are some folks who shared what this project means to them in their own words.

Scott McConnell, 53

Deputy Executive Officer of Project Management

Westside Purple Line Extension Project
Metropolitan Transportation Authority


I was born out here and I grew up on the East Coast, but I always had roots here with my grandparents. And I love Los Angeles. I wanted to work in Los Angeles. It’s a big, great project. Everyone knows about Los Angeles and their vehicles, but no one really talks about the metro rail and the subway, which is needed. So I had the opportunity to participate in the infrastructure and make LA a better place. I worked on the extension of the Red Line, Gold Line and now the Purple Line.

It’s been mostly a car town and we’re getting away from that. We’re in the people moving business. The exciting thing about it is we move people and we get them to where they’re going and we bring people together. So you know that LA is made up of a lot of smaller cities and neighborhoods if you will — we’re connecting neighborhoods. Now we have Downtown connected to Koreatown. We’re going to extend from Koreatown into Mid-Wilshire, into La Cienega, and ultimately, if we get the funding, to UCLA. So we’re moving people and bringing them together.

When the Purple Line is complete, I’d like to take the train to: I’m a college basketball fan, so I would like to ultimately take the subway to Pauley Pavilion at UCLA.  

Leonid Troitski, 63

Assistant Construction Manager

Westside Purple Line Extension Project
Metropolitan Transportation Authority


I’m from Russia originally. I’ve worked on metro lines around the world, and in this country, in India, New York, and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Toronto. It’s interesting when you do this work for 25 to 30 years, every time there are new challenges and each project is different.

We have to first mine the tunnel two miles long, from La Brea to Western. We have to guide the machine. So that will be the challenge. We’re going to try to bore 50 feet a day, or maybe more. It will be continuous work; we have to know where the machine is and where it goes. Most of the time you have shorter tunnels, like in New York.

Each machine has about a 15-man crew. It’s a technologically advanced machine. But there are a number of operations you have to do and you have to be exact. It’s a highly precise, highly skilled operation.

When the Purple Line is complete, I’d like to take the train to: Well, I am planning to retire in the future, but if I am here, I will ride the line.

Bethany Ader, 44

Paleontologist

Westside Purple Line Extension Project
Metropolitan Transportation Authority


We look for ancient dead things, but not people though, that’s the archaeologist.

What we do is whenever they do earth-moving activities, its undisturbed sediments, we need to watch to see any fossils. And if we do we tell them stop, we gather some data and then we try to get out of the way as soon as possible. We preserve the specimen, but we try not to hinder them too much in their work. It’s a bit of a rush when you find things.

I am excited about digging at Fairfax station, because it’s right next to La Brea Tar Pits, so fingers-crossed that we find really cool stuff there. We don’t quite have dinosaurs here, we’re not old enough. We’re relatively young, maybe in the hundreds of thousands of years, even a million years. So the only dinosaurs we would find would be birds. But mostly, they would be Ice Age animals, mammals like mastodons and saber tooth cats.

We just found a log about a month ago, a rather large chunk of a log, and a few months ago we found part of a whale. It’s looking like a whale.

Charles Gregart, 31

University of Southern California – Graduate Student

Commuter


I always definitely want more public transportation in Los Angeles. So anything they’re doing is huge. The fact that it goes out to — is it Westwood? — that’s great.

My girlfriend works in in Mid-City. I think she would be able to take that further. Right now she gets off at Wilshire-Western and then she has to catch a bus. And that goes through a huge swath of Los Angeles, and that area really isn’t covered, so that’s good. The last I read about it, it wasn’t supposed to get out there by 2040. And back then, I was going back to and deciding on grad school, and I was looking at whether I should go to University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) or University of Southern California (USC), and looking at what the public transportation options would be, it was something crazy to get out to Westwood. So that was kind of a bummer, and now I go to USC.  

I have a car. But I take the metro fairly often about once or twice a week. If I’m going to school, I have to take the Purple Line to the street, and to the Expo Line. I’m probably going to take it four or five times a week starting next year.

When the Purple Line is complete, I’d like to take the train to: LACMA, The Grove, where they have a farmer’s market, and maybe to the new Eataly.

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