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Digging finishes on the Westside subway’s first tunnel

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It connects the first two stops on a nine-mile extension of the Purple Line

A tunnel-boring machine emerges at the Wilshire/Western station. 
Courtesy Metro Los Angeles

LA’s subway to the Westside has its first new tunnel.

One of two tunnel-boring machines being used for the project (nicknamed Elsie and Soyeon) broke through a wall at the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station this week, completing a two-mile journey from a future station at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.

A second parallel tunnel is expected to be complete later this month, according to Metro.

By the agency’s calculations, the machines will move almost a half-million cubic yards of earth—enough to fill 150 Olympic-size swimming pools—in the process of building the twin tunnels.

This is just the first segment of the project’s first phase. Soon, the tunnel-boring machines will be carted back to the Wilshire/La Brea station and will begin digging west below Wilshire Boulevard to future stations at Fairfax Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard.

Earlier this month, Metro officials announced that this portion of the project, which will bring the existing Purple Line from Koreatown to the eastern edge of Beverly Hills, is now halfway complete. It’s expected to open in 2023.

Later phases of the project will extend the line farther west. A second leg will add stops in the heart of Beverly Hills and in Century City. The third and final phase will bring subway service to Westwood Village and the VA Hospital in Brentwood.

The full nine-mile extension is among the 28 projects Metro aims to complete in time for the 2028 Olympics. The agency plans to start train service along the entire route by 2027.

Once up-and-running, the subway is expected to be among the speediest ways to travel between the Westside and Downtown LA. Metro projects that a full journey along the route will take just 25 minutes.