At a community update meeting last night, both Metro officials and City Council Member David Ryu said that after a flurry of community input over the last few weeks, they are now both “leaning toward” recommending the original 16-weekend closure plan for Wilshire Blvd., over a more recently-proposed 7-week full closure to facilitate Purple Line Subway construction.
Opening the meeting, Mr. Ryu said his “mandate to restore trust in local government” pushed him to become very involved in the public decision-making process on this issue, and extensive community outreach by both Metro and his office has resulted in a large number of comments and letters from local neighbors and neighborhood associations, overwhelmingly favoring the weekend-only closure plan.
Metro’s Manager of Construction Relations, Kasey Shuda, said that since the possible alternative for a 7-week full closure of Wilshire was announced in August, Metro has stepped up its outreach efforts to solicit community members’ preferences between the two options. Since then, more than 100,000 informational fliers have been distributed, and there have been three Metro community meetings and more than 50 presentations to Neighborhood Councils, neighborhood associations and other groups. She said in response, Metro has received more than 150 letters and e-mails from community members, with most of them expressing a preference for the weekend-only closures.
Both Ryu and Shuda were careful to say that they have not yet made a formal, final recommendation for the 16 weekends over a full 7-week closure, but they are currently “leaning” toward the original 16-weekend plan and will continue to engage and listen to community members until making their recommendation to the city’s Department of Transportation and Bureau of Engineering later this month. At that point, if those and other approvals go according to schedule, the street closures and decking work would begin in April.
Draft Detour Map
The closures and decking installation will begin with the section of Wilshire between Detroit St. and La Brea Ave., which would be closed for three weekends, from 9 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday. Shuda distributed a map of proposed detour routes during those closures (see above), which will direct traffic largely along 6th Street instead of Wilshire. She said proposed detour maps for other street closure segments (as the decking project moves east along Wilshire toward Sycamore) are still being developed, and will be available soon.
Current Construction and Next Steps
Shuda and contractor representatives Mike Aparicio and Jill Steiner also gave an update on work being done right now near Wilshire and La Brea, which mostly involves the insertion of 100-foot steel piles around the location of the Wilshire-La Brea station “box.” They are currently installing about two piles per day, said Aparicio, but that rate will increase as they move east across La Brea.
Aparicio and Steiner said the next phases of construction, which will start when Wilshire is closed for the decking work, include “jet grouting” (a process of injecting concrete grout into the soil to strengthen it at 18 locations), creation of “tunnel cross passages” (short tunnels that will connect the two main subway tunnels), and insertion of “appendage piles” (to frame several small appendages that branch out from the main station area).
Although Metro presented an elaborate Traffic Management Plan earlier this month for the 7-full week closure option, Shuda reiterated at last night’s meeting that there would be no such plan for the weekend-only closures, since the short duration of the closure limits traffic management options to things like easily-removed signs and traffic control officers (both of which will be used extensively in a weekend-only closure plan). She said there would not be any lane re-striping, new parking restrictions, or more permanent “no turn” signs with a weekend-only plan.
In a question and answer session after the main presentation, stakeholders urged Metro to be especially mindful of pedestrian safety issues during the street closures and detours, and asked that they do as much as possible to keep cut-through traffic off of residential streets (especially during periods when Wilshire is closed at those streets). There were also questions about noise abatement, and environmental safety issues surrounding the hauling and dumping of dirt and debris.
One neighbor, who said she lives on Cloverdale Blvd. and walks to work at LACMA, noted that although the majority of people heard from so far may support the weekend-only closure plan, many who actually live along the construction route do not. She said they are not looking forward to a total of 22 consecutive weekends of 24-hour construction outside their bedroom windows…and that the potential lack of sleep presents a true “health crisis” for those who live there.
Kevin Glynn, a drama teacher at Los Angeles High School, asked whether the subway construction might be accelerated if Los Angeles is selected to host the 2020 Olympics. Ms. Shuda said there are some plans for that possibility in the works. If it happens, however, she said, the increased pace would definitely mean a very strict, mandated schedule, with no options and alternatives like the ones currently being considered.
Metro’s next community construction meeting will be held on Thursday, March 17. Neighbors are urged to continue sending comments about the 7-week vs. 16-week Wilshire Blvd. closure plans to Metro at:
…and/or to City Council Member David Ryu’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org