COLORADO AVE — Trains make noise. Businesses like silence.
When IMAX, a film projection company known for its larger than life nature films, announced it would amicably leave Santa Monica for a brand new place in Playa Vista, one of the many reasons was the coming Expo Light Rail Line.
“That train is going to be noisy,” CEO of IMAX Entertainment Greg Foster told the Daily Press earlier this year. “We do a lot of picture and sound work on the movies we do so that’s not going to work.”
It should be noted that IMAX also found a more suitable and affordable office for its expanding company, but the train’s rumble weighed on the company officials’ minds.
Samantha Bricker, chief operating officer of the Exposition Construction Authority, said that they’ve had no reported noise issues from neighbors of the first phase of the project, which has been up and running from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City since June of 2012.
Expo did extensive sound testing on the IMAX property, Bricker said.
They’re working hard, she said, using all kinds of tools to prevent noise from disturbing those working or living along the second phase of the line.
The company in charge of determining environmental impacts performs noise tests along the line, she said. When the construction is complete they’ll compare the average ambient sound on each property with the sound of the train to make sure the neighborhood isn’t getting louder.
Along Colorado Avenue, where the train will run in the middle of the street, the noise will be less dramatic than it is for homes and businesses (like IMAX) that are right next to the tracks, she said.
“Noise from the train comes at the wheel level,” she said. “It’s electric so it’s not like a train that’s carrying a whole lot of weight. It’s almost like a car going along with the traffic. For some of those businesses it will sound like the noise of cars going along Colorado.”
Virgin Produced, the entertainment arm of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, recently moved to Colorado Avenue but company officials haven’t been bothered by construction noise.
“The Expo Authority and the contractor seem to be working closely with our neighbors to address any concerns,” said CEO Jason Felts. “We expected disruption during construction, but we are a brand built on innovation and disruption so it suits us just fine. We can’t wait to have the light rail outside our door.”
The Writers Junction, a shared workspace for Los Angeles writers, was there before the work started.
“Quiet is a very important part of the space but we and the members understand,” Jacqueline Fauni, program coordinator, said of the construction. “There have been those days when it’s been particularly loud and we’ve just learned to deal with it.”
As for the train, they are equally unconcerned.
“I hadn’t thought of it until now but we don’t really have plans to move,” she said. “We’re hoping for the best.”
Expo is trying to make it the best, Bricker said. They use sound walls, which block noises, and other things with fun names like ballast mats and floating slabs.
A ballast mat is a rubber mat that goes between the ground and the tracks. It dampers low and moderate noise and vibrations anticipated from the trains, Bricker said.
With floating slabs, the concrete on which the tracks are fixed is supported by rubber mats or springs. This provides noise and vibration damping.
The first phase of the construction, which runs next to schools and on bridges, used a lot of sound walls.
As the process goes on they’ve been adding each tool when necessary. Just last month they asked for another floating slab to be added to the project.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all,” Bricker said.
They’ve worked with several post-production companies along the coming train line, she said, and haven’t heard many complaints.
As for construction, Bricker said that the work is on-schedule to be finished by the end of next year.
“Construction is painful,” she said. “(City Hall) wants us to work during the day to avoid complaints from residents about night work. But that’s harder for businesses. It’s a tradeoff. Santa Monica has worked very well with us. The community has been great.”