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Metro and its new Purple Line contractor have a shaky past

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Metro previously spent nearly two decades in court fighting the contractor

Pardon the pun, but Metro has a lot riding on it’s upcoming Purple Line subway extension. From the headache of road closures on Wilshire to the years spent in court with Beverly Hills to the hope the job can be finished in time for a potential LA Olympics, a lot of skeptical eyes are already on the Purple Line as it creeps westward.

The transit authority may have added to its woes in selecting a contractor for the job. According to the Los Angeles Times, Metro’s board of directors has chosen Tutor Perini Corp. to build the section from Wilshire and La Cienega to Century City—and that decision has already raised some eyebrows.

A map with a purple-shaded line and white dots denoting stations
Tutor Perini will construct Section 2 of the Purple Line extension
Courtesy of Metro

Metro’s relationship with Tutor Perini stretches back decades, and the two often spend more time in the courtroom than tunneling beneath the city. In the early 1990s, Tutor Perini was working on the Red Line near Downtown when almost 2,000 feet of tunnel wall was found to be nearly half as thick as required. The ensuing legal battle bounced from court to court for over a decade.

But that was then, and this is now. Tutor Perini submitted an aggressively low bid for the project that seems to have been too good for Metro to pass up. The contractor put in a total bid of $1.45 billion to complete the Purple Line work, some $493 million less than the second lowest bid, and a whopping $871 million less than the next lowest bid, according to the Times.

Strong oversight has been promised on both sides.

But one official who was not shy in expressing skepticism about the winning contractor was former county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who served on Metro’s Board of Directors during most of the Tutor Perini legal battle. He told the Times, “Because of the history that Metro has had with the Tutor company, you have to wonder how rigorously the financial aspects of the bid were analyzed.” He added: “There is an old saying I subscribe to: Once bitten, twice shy.”