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Subway to Be Audited by U.S. Inspector : Transit: Department of Transportation officials will meet with MTA representatives Monday to begin inquiry into construction and management problems.

October 22, 1994|DAVID WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general will audit the costs and management of ongoing construction of the Los Angeles subway, according to officials familiar with the review.

As they start the review, representatives of the inspector general are scheduled to meet Monday with auditing staff and executives of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The federal audit--which will include construction of tunnels and stations along Wilshire Boulevard, Vermont Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard--has been prompted in part by the inspector general's review of deficiencies in tunnels Downtown that are open to train service.

After an August, 1993, Times report, specialists retained by MTA Chief Executive Officer Franklin E. White found that tunnel walls between Union Station and Pershing Square were built with concrete thinner than specified. Results of a parallel outside review released last February found that the MTA's inspection management firm, Parsons-Dillingham, fell short of "acceptable industry practice" in its supervision of the first 4.4 miles of subway construction.

Repairs to the Downtown tunnels began seven months ago and are nearing completion. White informed MTA board members Friday that the repairs have included pumping more than 1,000 cubic yards of concrete-based grout--the equivalent of about 100 full-size cement truck loads--into the tunnel areas to fill voids.

The repairs, performed at spots along 1.9 miles of the twin tunnels, have been made at the expense of the original construction contractor, Tutor-Saliba Corp., and overseen by the construction management firm Parsons-Dillingham, also at no expense to taxpayers.

"We are coming to the end of a painful chapter in the building of the Metro Red Line tunnels," White said, adding that the repair work "demonstrates our insistence that contractors make good on their contracts."

The new audit, meanwhile, follows the Clinton Administration's decision Oct. 5 to cut off $1.6 billion of future funding for subway expansion until federal officials are satisfied that the MTA can competently manage the project.

The largest contract on the project--12 miles of twin tunnels connecting Wilshire and Hollywood boulevards--is mired in disputes that threaten to add tens of millions of dollars of cost and postpone the system's scheduled opening in 1998. Tunneling in Hollywood has been shut down since Aug. 18, when surface sinkage of up to nine inches were confirmed.

Federal Transit Administrator Gordon J. Linton has ordered that tunneling not resume until federal officials approve the MTA's plans and are satisfied that the work can be done safely. The federal government has provided about half--the largest share--of the funding for the Los Angeles subway. Linton is to meet privately with White and other officials Monday in Los Angeles.

White could not be reached late Friday regarding the inspector general's audit. In a memo to MTA board members earlier in the day, he defended his decision to not seek terminations of either Parsons-Dillingham or the tunneling contractor in Hollywood, Shea-Kiewit-Kenny.

An engineering firm retained by White to assess the construction along Hollywood Boulevard concluded this week that the substitution of wood wedges for steel bracing in the tunnels was "inappropriate." The wedges failed beneath the worst areas of the surface sinkage. The engineering firm found that the wood wedges were installed improperly and that concrete material was not placed around them, as required.

The substitution of the wood for the steel was approved by Parsons-Dillingham and the MTA's lead tunnel design engineer, employed by the firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff.

In a related development on Friday, a state legislator who represents much of Hollywood urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena not to permit a resumption of the tunneling until the MTA has completely addressed the deficient installation of the wood bracing.

Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) said that White's recently surfaced proposal to resume excavation "is premature and wholly inadequate."

"The tunnel liner is improperly installed," Polanco said. ". . . . This project should not move forward until all substandard work is completely repaired and constructed as required by the original contract document. Anything less would be sweeping these very serious violations under the rug."

Polanco also told Pena that a tour of the Hollywood tunnels by his state legislative staff found construction shortcomings that "would be clearly visible to any person in the tunnel, especially any inspectors."

Parsons-Dillingham executives have accused Shea-Kiewit-Kenny of deliberately concealing deficient work from inspectors. Representatives of Shea-Kiewit-Kenny have declined to comment publicly. In a letter this week to MTA board members, the contractor's top excuetive, John F. Shea, faulted Metro Rail officials for not requiring the use of soil-stabilizing grout products that typically are used to minimize surface sinkage.

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