In a March 30 letter to Gov. Newsom, Transportation California – a non-profit coalition whose member groups account for more than 200,000 California jobs – stated its gratitude for the governor’s “recognition that critical infrastructure sectors are vital to the State of California and that if these sectors were to cease during this already grave period, it would exacerbate the already significant deleterious impacts to our safety, economy, and jobs.”
With those significant impacts in mind, some California cities are taking advantage of the empty streets of the coronavirus era to accelerate essential improvements to their transportation systems. In the Los Angeles region, where traffic levels have dropped 60% under shelter-in-place orders, Beverly Hills City Council has approved expediting the construction of LA Metro’s Purple Line subway extension to “minimize future impacts of the project during the future economic recovery period.”
By taking advantage of the lull in its usual influx of tourists, drivers and hotel occupants, Beverly Hills can get construction activity completed with little additional disruption and Metro will save time and money by speeding up the subway project. In tough times, this is modest good news – a win for Metro, for Beverly Hills, and for the region.
The essential construction will fully close a three-block portion of Wilshire Boulevard and parts of Beverly Drive. The closure is anticipated to save Metro up to six months in building its Westside Purple Line Extension Section 2, anticipated to be open in 2025.
Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero said the council’s approval will allow Metro “to complete decking for the Wilshire Beverly/Rodeo station sooner than expected and will help us minimize future construction impacts to local businesses as they struggle to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis.”
Metro also reported that, for the Purple Line Extension Section 3, Metro has already been working with the city of L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) to take advantage of reduced traffic volumes in the Westwood area to accelerate some lane closures needed for early construction activities.
Kiana Valentine, Executive Director of Transportation California says the construction industry can continue to operate safely thanks to “California’s unique labor-management organizations and industry leaders working around the clock to ensure public and worker health and safety, and strict adherence to federal and state guidelines.”
The organization has pledged to work with the governor, the state, local agencies and project owners “to continue to adapt and make all necessary changes to our business practices to reflect the most current guidelines and safety and health precautions” as it repairs and maintains California’s statewide transportation system and other vital public infrastructure.