Building What Matters: From “Grand to the Sand” in Los Angeles

We talk a lot about “Building What Matters” at Skanska. For me, nothing drives this home like seeing the Expo Line light rail pull into the new Downtown Santa Monica station at 4th & Colorado.

Anyone who has driven the 10 freeway between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica knows it can be like a night at the casino: some days it goes really well… and some days you wished you had just stayed at home instead of even trying.

As an Angelino, I know how it has become second-nature for us to schedule around the traffic that has become a hallmark of the city. A lunch meeting in Santa Monica could mean not even going into your downtown office at all that day. Lakers or Dodgers tickets almost always mean getting inland before 4 p.m. if you want to see the whole game. We all know this because we’re accustomed to the hours of time looking at the taillights in front of us.

On May 20, the Expo Line will make its first public run from downtown to the coast, a trip that will take less than an hour, creating new possibilities for everyone. A commute home to Santa Monica from downtown (or vice versa) on the train might mean knowing you’re home in time for dinner. It’s little things like that which are life-changing – and when we build things like Expo, those outcomes are front and center.

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Mike Aparacio on one of the EXPO Line platforms waiting for a test run of one of the new trains.

Aside from personal benefits, Expo is also an example of how well a construction project can function. The design-build approach helped make sure that the construction authority, project designers and our construction team were always in lock step – and if we weren’t, the close collaboration made it easy to solve problems. More than anything, it meant delivering a project within the expected budget, a key responsibility on a publicly-funded project. In this case, that funding came from Measure R, where Los Angeles voters elected to tax themselves to fund transit projects. The public has a stake in the success of a project like Expo and it matters to them that public agencies and the designers and contractors they hire can deliver as expected.

Our larger community commitment goes beyond just being good custodians of public dollars to build the project. I am tremendously proud of efforts made by our joint venture team to involve local small businesses on the project and to patronize local businesses throughout construction. Making sure construction dollars have a tangible outcome for local businesses is a vital part of making sure that communities truly do benefit from our work.

13-2366_map_Project_Expo1+2_Jul13REV.inddThe dotted line at left shows the Expo Line Phase 2 expansion that opens on May 20. More at http://www.buildexpo.org/

All this comes together to reinforce what and how we build matters. I’m proud of the possibilities that Expo’s completion creates: new opportunities for how people go about their daily lives, new potential for small businesses that got their start working on segments of the Expo extension, and a city that can see that meaningful transit connections have the ability to change the way a city not only gets around, but thinks of itself.

Together, we’ve created these new opportunities and, as people begin to ride this weekend, we can all celebrate together.

Editor’s note: for more on what the Expo Line will mean to Los Angeles, check out our infographic on Measuring the Impact of Light Rail in More Ways than One