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Riordan Blocks Possible Snag to Valley Rail Line


In his latest show of attention to the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan on Wednesday blocked a move that might have delayed construction of a Valley mass transit line linked to the Metro Rail system.

Riordan asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to delay for one month the adoption of its planned budget, which would have provided funds for a Pasadena trolley line but none for the projected east-west Valley rail line.

"I don't want to see anything done today that gets in the way of a Valley line," Riordan said in an interview before the meeting.

At the meeting he asked fellow MTA members to postpone approval of their proposed budget because he needs more time to study it. The MTA agreed unanimously to the delay, which was seen by transportation officials and longtime observers as an opportunity for Riordan to persuade the agency to rethink its funding priorities and put the Valley line back on schedule.

Problems for the Valley line arose last month when MTA members discovered that shrinking tax revenues and other budget shortfalls left them with so little money that construction of the Valley line would have to be postponed for up to a decade unless other funding sources were found. Previously, it was planned to begin construction in late 1995.

The east-west Valley line would continue the Metro Rail line from downtown. The MTA is expected to decide next year between two rival proposals for a Valley route: a mostly subway line starting at the Metro Rail Red Line station in North Hollywood and ending in Woodland Hills, or an elevated line over the Ventura Freeway from Universal City to Woodland Hills.

Riordan and two new appointees, former mayoral candidate Stan Sanders and Valley-based real estate agent Mel Wilson, took their seats on the MTA for the first time Wednesday. Riordan's third appointee, City Councilman Richard Alatorre, had also been a member of the panel under the Bradley Administration.

County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a longtime MTA member, pointed out that the presence of Riordan on the authority significantly improved the chances of putting the Valley line back on schedule. Antonovich is the key backer of the Ventura Freeway route, which Riordan also has championed.

"We are working to have the San Fernando Valley stay on course," Antonovich said. "We have stronger representation for San Fernando Valley as a result of Mayor Riordan's election. (Former Mayor) Tom Bradley was wedded to a costly subway project--not to the Valley. We have increased our support."

Riordan's move to keep the Valley line on schedule fits a pattern for the new mayor, who was swept into office with the support of 71% of Valley voters after promising to reverse what he said had been a history of neglect. Since he took office, he has named at least 10 Valley residents to city commissions that had three Valley members under the Bradley Administration.

In other Valley-related actions, the MTA unanimously voted to spend $3.5 million on engineering and soil studies that are expected to answer many vital questions that remain before the MTA can decide on a route for a Valley line.

One study would examine possible soil problems that could be encountered in digging a mostly subway line on the Burbank-Chandler route. The other would study potential engineering and safety problems that would might be found in building the Ventura Freeway elevated line.

Both studies are expected to be completed within 12 months.

A proposal by MTA alternate member Nick Patsaouras to delay construction of the Metro Rail Red Line extension from Universal City to North Hollywood was soundly defeated by MTA members who said such a move could jeopardize the 50% funding offered by the federal government.

Patsaouras suggested construction of the $362-million extension be delayed until the MTA chooses between the two rival Valley routes. But he withdrew his motion after it was harshly criticized by several authority members.

Supervisor Edmund D. Edelman, vice chairman of the authority, said Patsaouras' suggestion would violate promises not only to the federal government but to Valley residents.

"The people expect the Red Line to get to North Hollywood," Edelman said. "I don't see the reason in the action by Mr. Patsaouras."

MTA Director Franklin E. White said delaying a contract to begin tunneling work "will create all kinds of disruptions with the federal government."

In other action, the MTA--declaring a winner in a high-stakes competition--awarded a $205-million contract to a German-U.S. team that promises to create jobs and a rail industry in Los Angeles by building cars for the 22-mile Green Line.

Although the MTA board members did not resolve a $414-million shortfall facing the Green Line, they decided to proceed with the purchase of 72 trolley cars. The contract was awarded to Siemens Duewag Corp., which promised to create 244 California jobs, pump $20 million into the local economy and open a Los Angeles plant, although the officials have not yet determined how they will pay for construction of the 22-mile route the cars are to be used on.

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