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Beneath the Maze, There's Room for Metro Rail

February 09, 1989|DAVID LUSTIG

Is there room for an Underground--or rather, Metro Rail--beneath the Valley?

Yes, way under.

The key to designing Metro Rail is to go under the existing maze wherever possible, down to a depth of 60 feet at the most, according to Mike Merrick, manager of Engineering Design for Metro Rail.

"We are prepared to make sure in designing the transit facilities that we have a practical rearrangement solution for each utility," Merrick said. "We don't want to have to build two miles of sewer, for instance, to detour around a station. We're going to hit utilities wherever we go so we have to get a very definite idea of where they are and plan our stations accordingly."

Plans for stations at Universal City and at the end of the line in North Hollywood, at Lankershim and Chandler boulevards, call for the stations to be about 60 feet underground. Generally, the tunnels will be dug 30 feet below.

Merrick, a veteran of subway construction in Georgia and Washington who has studied Metro Rail for five years, is impressed with the Los Angeles substructure maps provided by the Department of Public Works. He has been surprised before by what was found beneath the surface, including underground streams running 30 feet below Atlanta.

"These things had been flowing quite happily and until we started doing our investigation, nobody really knew where they were. So we had to go down there and crawl along them and survey them as we went," Merrick said.

While Metro Rail engineers don't expect any uncharted underground streams in Los Angeles, what lies ahead for them under the Valley is still to be worked out on the Metro Rail project, which has no scheduled completion date.

"Generally it is the stations where we get conflicts with the utilities," Merrick said. "Most of the time the tunnels are low enough that they don't have any effect at all on the utilities except for the occasional sewer."

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