Heading On West

Construction begins on L.A.’s Purple Line extension as adjacent projects take shape

Transportation Urbanism West
Metro has started tunneling the next phase of the Purple Line extension through L.A.’s Westside. (Courtesy Metro)
Metro has started tunneling the next phase of the Purple Line extension through L.A.’s Westside. (Courtesy Metro)

Over 30 years after it was initially planned, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has started tunneling the final phases of the Purple Line subway.

According to Metro, when completed in 2026, it will be possible to take a one-seat underground ride from Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles to Westwood—an area home to the University of California, Los Angeles campus, the Veterans Administration complex, and other major institutions—in roughly 25 minutes. For comparison, today the trip takes nearly an hour and a half by car or bus.

purple line extension map metro

Map showing the three planned extensions for L.A.’s Purple Line subway. (Courtesy Metro)

Though its completion is many years away, the pending extension has begun to impact adjacent areas as rezoning efforts get underway in anticipation of the route. The pending Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, for example, will modestly boost densities between the three adjacent stations surrounding the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus. As proposed, upper height limits in the densest areas could reach 70-feet, ten feet higher than currently allowed.

The prospect of taller buildings on and around Wilshire Boulevard is not a far-off vision, however.

The 18-story Vision on Wilshire project by Steinberg Hart and developers UDR, for example, wrapped up construction this summer. The pixelated tower comes with 150 units and joins other new apartment towers recently completed along the corridor. Nearby, a new glass-wrapped tower by MVE + Partners and developers J.H. Snider is slated for a site adjacent to the LACMA campus, and will bring 285 apartments and 250,000 square feet of offices just steps from the transit line.

Another project on the boards is a two-tower condominium development slated to join the historic Minoru Yamasaki-designed Plaza Hotel in Century City. Here, Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, Gensler, Marmol Radzinger, and RCH Studios will add 290 luxury condominiums behind the historic hotel on a site that will host a new stop on the extension. The project is currently under construction.

mve + partners wilshire tower

A 12-story mixed-use apartment tower by MVE + Partners is headed to a site adjacent to the proposed transit route. (Courtesy MVE + Partners)

Not everyone is happy about the coming transit line, however, especially in Beverly Hills, which will see a new subway stop at Wilshire and Rodeo Drive. The City of Beverly Hills has been engaged in a years-long struggle to block the subway from running below its streets. Most recently, the Beverly Hills Unified School District orchestrated what it called a student “walk out” against the proposed metro line. The demonstration occurred last week and was aimed at trying to get the attention of President Trump, who is himself a Beverly Hills homeowner.

According to The Los Angeles Times, students carried signs calling on the president to move the subway route, which is currently slated to run underneath Beverly Hills High School and other sites in the city, away from delicate areas. The students also sought to have the president take the unprecedented step of revoking the $1.5 billion in federal funds and low-cost loans awarded to the transformative project. There’s no word from the president yet, but Metro cranked up its two new tunneling machines Monday to begin digging the next leg of the extension nonetheless.

It’s expected the tunneling machines will advance roughly 60 feet per day from La Brea Avenue and Wilshire toward the current Purple Line terminus at Western Avenue. After the tunnel there is excavated, the machines will be driven back to La Brea and begin the work of completing the final leg of the line.

Phase one of the expansion is slated to open in 2023 with the second phase due to arrive in 2025 and final completion expected by 2026, just in time for the 2028 Olympic Games.

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