Construction of a parking garage at the El Monte Busway Station, delayed for eight months when contaminated soil was discovered at the site, is expected to resume next month, bus company officials said.
West San Gabriel Valley commuters, many of whom now park blocks away from the busy El Monte terminal or board at alternate stops, should be able to park in the new 500-space garage by October, Rapid Transit District spokesmen said this week.
But the RTD's chief engineer for facilities said he is making no promises.
"We expect to be back (to work) in three or four weeks, but my experience is that when you're dealing with contaminated soil, it's not over till it's over," engineer Phillip Meyers said.
The unexpected soil problems have increased the cost of the garage about 30%, to $3.2 million, he said.
When crews tore up a 250-space parking lot next to the bus terminal last June and began to excavate the two-acre site, Meyers thought construction would be completed by now, he said.
But work was halted in August after 1,140 truckloads of rubble- and rock-filled soil had been hauled to two nearby landfills. Operators of the Live Oak dump in Monrovia, which is not licensed to accept toxic waste, sounded the alarm.
"The people at the landfill said, 'Wait a minute. This stuff is blue. It doesn't look like something we should have here,' " Meyers said.
Analysts found that about 10% of the soil was filled with poisonous lead compounds and with low levels of cyanide and petroleum waste--the result, an RTD consultant reported, of the site's use as an industrial dump for 40 years before the state Department of Transportation turned it into a parking lot in 1971.
The RTD and three other agencies funding the garage--the City of El Monte, Los Angeles County and the county Transportation Commission--paid $250,000 to move 100 truckloads of the contaminated soil from the Monrovia landfill to a toxic-waste dump in the desert near Brawley, RTD officials said.
But the cost of hauling all of the contaminated soil from the garage site to Brawley--one of only two toxic-waste dumps in Southern California--would be $1.5 million, compared to the $2.5-million price tag for the entire project, Meyers said.
So instead of laying a subterranean foundation, the bus company decided to build the parking garage atop the toxic soil.
The RTD's environmental consultant found that "the degree of soil contamination . . . is more limited than the history of the site would indicate" and that the remaining toxic soil "will pose no hazard to the users of the parking structure." The state Department of Health Services concurred.
Construction crews are scheduled to begin drilling holes for the garage support piles next month, Meyers said. That will add $400,000 to the project's cost but will get it moving again, he said.
"There is a parking shortage out there, so we're anxious to get this back under construction," Meyers said.