Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors – Crenshaw/LAX Transit Projec
When the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is complete in early 2019 it will open up underserved portions of the Los Angeles region to new public transportation options and bring light rail closer to the Los Angeles international airport. “It’s very important for the residents of the Crenshaw and Inglewood areas to connect to this network,” explains Jim Gardner, senior project manager for Walsh-Shea Corridor Constructors.
Walsh-Shea Corridor Constructors is a partnership between Walsh Construction Company and J.F. Shea Construction Inc., both of which have an extensive history of completing mass-transit projects. The collaboration began in 2011 when Walsh-Shea bid on the $1.3 billion construction project for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). The total cost of creating the route is $2.058 billion, including property acquisition, and the project is one of 12 developments being paid for through a half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
Once completed, the Crenshaw/LAX line will have eight stations along 8.5 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. To the north, the project begins at Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards in the Crenshaw neighborhood of southwest Los Angeles.
The route runs south along Crenshaw Boulevard before following an existing rail line alignment southwest into the suburb of Inglewood. The route proceeds pass Interstate 405, turns south at Manchester Avenue and then runs along the eastern boundary of LAX before connecting to the existing Green Line. A separate people mover project could someday bring riders the rest of the way to the airport.
Construction is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2018 and service could begin soon after. Metro’s ridership projection anticipates more than 16,000 boardings each day by 2030.
Walsh-Shea is conducting grate work and utility relocations as it prepares to begin tunnel boring in the fall. The tunnels will connect the three underground stations of the project, all located below Crenshaw Boulevard in the northern section between Exposition Boulevard and Vernon Avenue. Two tunnels will connect the stations before the route heads above ground and winds its way toward the airport. Additionally, Walsh-Shea is in the beginning phases of receiving approvals from third party entities for reconstructing three bridges along the route.
Managing the approval process and working with the community has been the biggest challenge on the project, Gardner says. At every step, Walsh-Shea must coordinate with a number of government agencies, including LAX, the city of Los Angeles, city of Inglewood and various council districts, to have plans reviewed and approved. Walsh-Shea works closely with each of those governing bodies and holds weekly meetings with Los Angeles World Airports, the city of Los Angeles department that owns and operates LAX and other Los Angeles airports, to discuss lane closures and ensure construction does not impact air traffic. “When you do anything in the city, it affects a lot of people,” Gardner explains. “You pretty much have to have a team in place to take care of the third parties.”
Beyond local government, Walsh-Shea must cooperate with the residents whose everyday lives are inconvenienced by the 8.5 miles of construction. “[We are] getting the community engaged, as this is a brand new venture for this community,” says Erich Engler, business manager for Walsh-Shea. The joint venture has been transparent throughout the process, Engler adds, and has held numerous public meetings and outreach initiatives, but construction will always cause some issues. “It’s a pretty intense effort to keep the public informed,” Engler explains. “With any type of process there’s a little pain.”
Because the project is being built through residential and commercial neighborhoods, it requires careful consideration of staging and parking on dense job sites. Despite efforts to minimize the impact, construction will displaced much of the parking citizens and businesses rely on every day. Walsh-Shea has created temporary lots and leased other locations to provide parking stalls for the communities. “We’ve had to do to think outside the box to make sure there is adequate parking during construction,” Engler says. “We’re trying to quietly, quickly and efficiently get this done so we don’t have too much of an impact on the community.”
Businesses are perhaps the most affected, as construction and parking struggles can deter shoppers. Walsh-Shea and Metro have worked with local businesses and raised banners in commercial areas to remind customers that stores remain open. Further, a Metro program, the Business Interruption Fund, helps companies tread water during construction by providing up to $50,000 per business to offset lost revenue and cover fixed operating expenses such as utility bills, rent and payroll.
Complaints from residents are filtered from the local councils and Metro down to Walsh-Shea. The company monitors work sites for noise and dust and works to resolve problems. “We go out of our way to mitigate,” Engler says, “whether it’s additional sound blankets or modifying the activity to lessen impacts.”
But despite the interruption to life, Gardner and Engler say the community will see the value of the transportation line once it is running. “We’re trying to connect infrastructure to the entire city,” Engler says. “This is just an arm to connect to the existing Green Line, which will eventually take us to LAX.” The route will provide the first rail service to the area since the Los Angeles Rail Line’s Yellow Cars ceased operation in 1955. “It’s a big deal for the residents of Crenshaw and Inglewood to connect to this network,” Engler adds.