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Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (LACMTA) board approved a $1.6 billion contract with the Skanska, Traylor and Shea joint venture to construct the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway.The project's first phase, with a total budget of $2.7 billion, is anticipated to open in 2023, LACMTA officials said in a blog post on the agency's website.The contract's approval marked a key step for a cornerstone project that will be funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase that Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008, LACMTA officials said. In addition, a $1.25 billion federal New Starts grant is helping to fund the project.The Purple Line project will extend the subway from its existing terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be constructed at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.The two firms that did not win the contract have filed protests with LACMTA. The board is allowed to award the contract pending the timely resolution of the protests, the blog stated.Although the joint venture's bid was the most expensive by nearly $193 million, LACMTA's staff believes "this team offers the best opportunity to deliver the project on time and on budget" — a promise reiterated by the winning bidder’s future project manager, according to the blog.The companies involved in the joint venture also have worked on the Expo Line's second phase and the Gold Line Foothill Extension.