After delays due to the discovery of skeletons during excavation, Eastside LRT Constructors finally will begin building a 300-ft-long retaining wall this month as part of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $898-million six-mile extension of the Gold Line light-rail system.

"Until you get a shovel in the ground, you don’t know what you will find," says Eli Choueiry, MTA project manager. According to a 1994 environmental impact report by Los Angeles-based Myra L. Frank & Associates, since acquired by Jones & Stokes, the site purchased by the county from Evergreen Cemetery supposedly was "not used for burial and therefore contains no significant structures or objects."

But the surprise graveyard, dating back to the 1800s, was discovered in June, while crews were demolishing the original wall and clearing the area. MTA’s archeological contractor, Santa Ana, Calif.-based Cogstone Resource Management Inc., began sifting through the 28-ft setback of 4 to 14-ft. excavations, 6 in. at a time. Almost 40 skeletons were found.

Cogstone brought in Corona, Calif.-based GEOVision Inc. Geophysical Services. It used ground-penetrating radar to detect anomalies that might indicate the presence of remains. The radar, developed to detect landmines, detected a number of disturbance zones of 1 ft or larger, says J.B. Shawer, GEOVision senior geophysicist.

The bones and investigation added $200,000 to the cost of the rail line extension. The new wall will support the 28-ft shifting of a hill north from an existing street. That area will be the site of the east portal for twin tunnels as part of the light-rail system. An MTA spokesman says that the boring of the 18.8-ft-dia tunnels, scheduled to begin within weeks, would not have been affected by delays in construction of the new retaining wall.