It’s been more than six decades since it was possible to travel by rail from downtown Los Angeles to the beachfront of Santa Monica, Calif. But when the Los Angeles Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) Expo Line Phase 2 extension opened on May 20, it heralded a new era of rail service to the Pacific Ocean, which hasn’t been available since the closing of Pacific Electric Streetcar’s Santa Monica Air Line in 1953.
“This extension completes the rail connection to Santa Monica, so you can now ride the train from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, just a few blocks from the beach,” said Brett Jones, project manager for WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, which served as lead designer for the project.
The Phase 2 extension features 6.6 miles of new light rail and seven new stations from Culver City to Santa Monica, extending the Expo Line to 15.2 miles. Phase 1 of the Expo Line, 8.6 miles from downtown to Culver City, opened in April 2012. The Expo Line serves neighborhoods on the city’s Westside, including Exposition Park, Century City, West Los Angeles and Westwood, and offers an alternative to travel on the congested Interstate 10 freeway.
Ridership on the new portion of the Expo Line is projected to total 18,000 to 20,000 weekday travelers after the first year of service. The travel time from downtown L.A. to the Downtown Santa Monica Station is 48 minutes. Expo service begins each day at about 4:45 a.m. and continues until about 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Trains will run every 12 minutes until about 8 p.m., after which service will be every 20 minutes.
The $1.5-billion extension is the second rail project funded by Measure R to open this year — the Gold Line extension to Azusa debuted in March. Almost 68% of Los Angeles County voters in 2008 approved the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase to fund new transportation projects and programs.
“The opening of the Expo Line extension is a great reminder that we have come a long way in a short time,” said Metro CEO Phil Washington. “But we still have more to do with easing everyday congestion. We will continue to strive to deliver our investments on time and on budget for the transportation network that Los Angeles County deserves.”
Working on behalf of the joint venture of Skanska USA and Rados Construction Inc., WSP | PB served as the prime designer for all elements of the project, excluding train control, communications, parking structure and the maintenance facility.
The Skanska-Rados joint venture was awarded a design-build contract for the Phase 2 extension in 2011 by the Exposition Construction Authority, which was created by the state legislature to oversee the planning, design and construction of the Expo Line. The Expo Authority turned the completed line over to Metro, which owns and operates it.
Design for the $600 million, Phase 2 extension began in May 2011 and was completed in November 2012. Design was completed ahead of schedule to facilitate an early construction start, which resulted in delivery of the project on time and within budget, Jones explained.
The project included a $103.5-million light rail vehicle maintenance yard in Santa Monica with many environmentally-friendly features. The 14-acre facility can house up to 48 train cars and is staffed around-the-clock by nearly 200 Metro employees.
Additionally, the project featured a paved bike path that produced some challenges during the design process.“A parallel bike path was added to the project over a year after the design-build started, causing a disruption until the transit design matched the bikeway design,” Jones said. “The team was able to overcome this obstacle by completing the bikeway design within an aggressive schedule.”
The team was also able to save the 70-year-old Kenter Canyon storm drain, which runs under Colorado Avenue under the tracks. The firm was able to demonstrate the structural integrity of the existing underground tunnel by obtaining cores of the storm drain and performing a soil structure analysis.“Saving the storm drain minimized the disruption of traffic along Colorado Avenue and minimized trenching,” Jones said. “Through obtaining design exceptions through Los Angeles Metro and the California Public Utilities Commission, and by weaving the design through the 25-foot-wide existing box, we were able to save and use the tunnel under Interstate 10.”
The project was recognized this year by the International Partnering Institute with a 2016 John L. Martin Partnered Project of the Year award.