LA Metro's Crenshaw/LAX line nears completion

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LA Metro's new Southwestern Yard will service Green Line and Crenshaw Line trains.
LA Metro
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The Crenshaw line begins its dive below ground at the edge of LA International Airport.
LA Metro
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An artist's rendering of the planned Airport Metro Connector at LA International Airport, due to open in 2023.
Los Angeles World Airports

Part of an occasional series on Los Angeles-area transit projects

LOS ANGELES — Major construction work on LA Metro’s new Crenshaw/LAX line is 90% done, the transportation agency’s senior executive officer tells Trains News Wire. Testing of signal and communications systems will begin in just a few weeks.

Sameh Ghaly, a professional engineer and 10-year veteran of the Toronto Transit Commission who joined LA Metro last year, says, “I'm looking forward to finishing the project and not only turning it over to Operations, but turn it over to the community so they can use this facility.”

The 8.5-mile light rail line will fill a gap in Metro’s network, serving residents and businesses in Crenshaw, Inglewood, Westchester, and El Segundo. It connects the Expo Line, which runs crosstown from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles, with the Green Line, which follows the I-105 freeway east-west from near Los Angeles International Airport to Norwalk.

The Crenshaw/LAX is one of 11 rail projects planned by LA Metro to prepare for the 2028 summer Olympic Games, which Los Angeles will host.

More than 600 workers are completing finishing work on eight stations and installing and connecting critical equipment.

Ghaly says the Crenshaw/LAX project “has everything.” The double-track line tunnels under Aviation Boulevard along the eastern perimeter of the airport, climbs and crosses the I-405 freeway, and continues both at-grade and underground.

Building so close to LAX presented its own challenges. Pre-construction work involved relocating power and communications lines that serve essential airport navigation aids.

The line’s roller-coaster design required building four stations at street level, one elevated and the remainder below grade.

Along with the $2 billion Crenshaw/LAX project, a new $172 million maintenance facility now sits alongside Aviation Boulevard. The 115,000 square foot Southwestern Yard was completed in March and began operations in April.

With a capacity of 70 light rail vehicles, the new facility can handle cleaning, inspection, wheel truing, blow-down and heavy repairs. It’s expected to employ about 200 staff and will serve both the Crenshaw and Green lines.

Ghaly says contractors are now testing the connection between the two lines. Service on the Green Line from Redondo Beach to Crenshaw is suspended each weekend from now until the fall to allow for signal and communications tests.

Similar testing will begin shortly across the length of the Crenshaw/LAX line and is expected to continue for several months. When the contractor — a joint venture of Walsh Construction and J.F. Shea Company — is satisfied, it will turn the route over to LA Metro, which will then begin its own tests, training, and operations.

Rolling stock for the new line is currently in service on other lines. Delivered in 2017 but designated for Crenshaw, 22 Kinkisharyo P3010 light rail vehicles will get software upgrades including the new line’s track profiles and final alignment. The first of those cars have arrived at the Southwestern Yard.

The Crenshaw/LAX line is due to enter service in 2020, but there’s more to come after that. Initially, reaching airport terminals will require a shuttle bus, but two additional projects planned for 2023 will directly connect the rail system to the airport.

An additional station will be built at 96th Street. With three rail platforms, the multilevel $216 million facility will serve both the Crenshaw/LAX Line and a short, new extension of the Green Line. From there, an automated people mover will whisk passengers on a 2.25-mile aerial guideway directly to the airport’s nine terminals. It is a $4.9 billion project funded by Los Angeles World Airports.

The benefits of the Crenshaw/LAX line and airport connector will be obvious to anyone who drives to LAX. Getting there today means dealing with congested freeways and surface streets. Once there, it can take another 45 minutes just to get around the terminal roadway, says Stephanie Sampson, spokeswoman for the airport.

When the automated people mover is in operation, it will take less than 10 minutes to ride from the light rail station to the furthest airport terminal, and Metro passengers will be able to count on train schedules to help plan their arrival. “You'll have time-guaranteed access to the terminal area,” Sampson says.

Bombardier is supplying 44 vehicles, which will run in four-car sets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It also leads a consortium responsible for operation and maintenance for 25 years after construction is completed.

The first vehicles will arrive in December 2020. Construction on the maintenance and storage facility is set to begin this summer.

Sampson says there is a great deal of coordination necessary with LA Metro on the Airport Connector Station, as Metro is responsible for the grade-level rail station and the airport is responsible for the upper-level people mover station.

LA Metro is already looking to extend the Crenshaw line further north. Planning is still at an early stage, and possible routes take it to West Hollywood, Mid-City or Koreatown. More than $2 billion is allocated to this extension from existing funds. Projected costs range from $2.4 to $4.7 billion, depending on which route is selected.

Groundbreaking is currently set for 2041. Work could begin sooner, however, if funding can be found. The City of West Hollywood, which stands to benefit from a one-ride connection to LAX, is leading those efforts.

Previous articles in this series:

LA Metro on schedule with Blue Line construction work

Purple Line subway extension tunnels under Los Angeles

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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