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Getting Back on Track : Transit: Rail supporters ecstatic after MTA agrees to spend $40 million for design of the Pasadena Blue Line. It plans to find another $57 million to start construction of the route.


THE REGION — In the spirit of the old refrain "Clang! Clang! Clang! goes the trolley," boosters of the Pasadena Blue Line were singing happily last week after county transit officials committed to a $97-million compromise plan that keeps the project alive.

"Pasadena is feeling good today," the city's public works director, Cynthia Kurtz, said Thursday, the day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to continue funding for the 13.6-mile light-rail line from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena.

The decision removes a pall of doubt cast over the project in recent months as the transportation board, its staff and politicians questioned whether the Pasadena Blue Line was the best place for the MTA to spend its resources.

The recession, a restructuring of the transit board and changes in the agency's staff forced a re-examination of the project, estimated to cost $841 million. During the last year, Kurtz said, "there were a lot of things that were shifting."

In response, San Gabriel Valley and northeastern Los Angeles officials marshaled an intense lobbying effort, including a show of force at the board meeting Wednesday.

Less than two weeks ago, the boosters staged a whistle-stop rally in the four communities where rail stations are planned. Citing the tens of millions of dollars in public and private money already spent to launch the project, Pasadena City Manager Philip Hawkey said: "For the MTA to renege on its promise now could be disastrous to a community like Pasadena."

The lobbying paid off, said Kurtz, adding that "we really believe they listened to us."

Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole said last week's decision represented a turning point, resolving the crucial question of whether the board would commit itself to the project.

Cole praised MTA board chairman and Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre as the pivotal advocate for the line, which will run through a part of his district.

In a compromise agreement fashioned by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, the MTA board approved spending $40 million for design of the Pasadena Blue Line as part of the board's overall $3.7-billion budget.

In addition, the board agreed to find another $57 million to start construction of the line.

Cole and other supporters said they are confident the agency will allocate the $57 million. "The commitment has been made," he said.

Earlier this summer, the new chief operating officer of the MTA, Franklin White, said the Pasadena project had been planned in rosy times that had since vanished. "I assume that the promises were made in good faith, but the economic situation has changed drastically," he said.

Because of the recent debate, the opening of the Pasadena Blue Line has been delayed by perhaps up to six months. It is now expected to open in early 1998.

Regardless, business leaders in the area said they are pleased the project remains alive.

"It's great," said Jack Smith, head of the Old Pasadena Business and Professional Assn. The train line, he said, will be a boon not only to Old Pasadena and the rest of Pasadena but to the surrounding San Gabriel Valley communities as well.

Pasadena Light Rail The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a 13.6-mile light-rail line from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena. The line will run north from Union Station in Los Angeles to Sierra Madre Villa Avenue in east Pasadena.

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