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Soil Settling, Leaks Force Closure of Boulevard : Transportation: Nine blocks of famous Hollywood street are blocked off along area of Metro Rail tunneling project. An apartment building is also evacuated.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nine of the busiest blocks of Hollywood Boulevard were closed to traffic Saturday and an apartment building was evacuated after water seepage in the Metro Rail’s Red Line tunneling project and ground settling along the famed street.

Construction crews were working Saturday night to shore up the ground around two subway tunnels under Hollywood Boulevard near Hudson Avenue and to find the source of the water leaks. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the boulevard could reopen this morning.

Authorities barred vehicle traffic from the boulevard between Vine Street and Highland Avenue at midafternoon Saturday. Pedestrian access was blocked between Whitley and Wilcox avenues.

Construction work in the two tunnels being dug beneath Hollywood Boulevard had been halted Thursday after the discovery of buckled sidewalks and cracked pavement. Occupants of shops along the boulevard also had complained that the subway work was cracking floors and walls.

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The Los Angeles City Council on Friday asked the MTA to investigate the damage.

On Saturday, structural problems in a four-story brick apartment building at 6531 Hollywood Blvd. forced the evacuation of about 45 residents. The MTA said it would pay to house them at a nearby hotel overnight.

City officials ordered the evacuation after an inspector concluded that the building was unfit for occupation, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

The 1917-vintage building had sustained damage in the January earthquake. MTA spokesman Rick Jager said it is unclear how much of the building’s new structural problems were caused by soil settling related to the subway tunneling.

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“We don’t know how much the earthquake did and how much the (settling) did,” Jager said.

Some shops to the west of the apartments were evacuated later Saturday because of concern about the potential weakness of the neighboring building, Humphrey said.

MTA project manager Joel Sandberg told reporters that although water has been seeping into the north tunnel for a few weeks, crews decided Saturday that the seepage was worsening and expressed concern that the concrete lining of the tunnel may be shifting.

The source of the water is unknown, Sandberg said. He added that the surface above the tunneling has settled as much as nine inches at the Hudson Avenue intersection.

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The addition of vertical and horizontal braces in the tunnel under the intersection “will provide an additional measure of safety,” the MTA said in a statement. Construction crews are also digging holes so concrete grouting can be pumped into the soil under the area, the MTA said.

The Department of Water and Power has shut off a 16-inch water main that runs along that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.

Thirty firefighters were to be stationed overnight at a tunnel access point at Barnsdall Park as a safety precaution for tunnel workers, Humphrey said.

“We’re maintaining our position of readiness,” he said.

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The affected stretch of Hollywood Boulevard includes the Walk of Fame stars of Carol Burnett, Fred MacMurray and other celebrities. Plans were under way to remove the landmark stars from the damaged sidewalks.


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