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DOWNTOWN : More Funds Sought for Cable Car Line

October 02, 1994|TOMMY LI

The City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposed increase of more than half a million dollars to fund design costs for restoration of Angels Flight, a twin cable-car system that once rolled up and down Bunker Hill.

Harris & Associates originally received a $1-million contract to manage reconstruction of Angels Flight, built in 1901 and dismantled in 1969 to make way for redevelopment improvements, said Jeffrey Skorneck, Bunker Hill project manager for the Community Redevelopment Agency.

But design expenses grew by $537,000, mainly because city officials later decided to provide wheelchair access on one of the cable cars, even though the city's historic railway is exempt from federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, Skorneck said. Study and drawing fees for an electronic wheelchair lift total $187,350.

According to a CRA staff report, other key increases in expenses were:

* $131,000 to complete construction plans for a podium to support the cable cars' operations facility at the California Plaza building. Harris & Associates had intended to leave that design work for the construction contractor, but the city Building and Safety Department required the designs in advance.

* $87,650 to prepare a required report detailing the various historical aspects of Angels Flight that the city wants to preserve. A consultant hired by the CRA failed to produce the work. No money was paid to that firm, but the council would have to approve shifting those funds into Harris & Associates' design contract.

Council members last year approved spending $4 million to rebuild the 315-foot, elevated cable car system. Bunker Hill redevelopment funds and money from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will help pay for the project, city officials said.

Although the CRA Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the proposed increase to Harris' contract on Sept. 22, staff from City Councilwoman Rita Walters' office criticized the CRA for poor project management. Walters' district includes Bunker Hill.

"We love the project," said Howard Gantman, press deputy for Walters. "There just shouldn't have been all these cost overruns."

Both sides have since reached an agreement in which the amended contract, if approved by the council, would allow for a city audit and require redevelopment agency staff to seek the additional funding from the MTA.

"Those conditions are fine," Skorneck said. "I hope the council will approve the (increase)."

If that happens, the final phase would be for the CRA board to approve a construction contract in mid-October. "We should have contracts issued by November and construction should start by December," Skorneck said. Angels Flight could be in service again by the end of 1995.

Dubbed "the world's shortest railway," the restored orange and black rail cars will run on tracks half a block south of 3rd Street, between Hill and Olive streets, he said. It used to operate alongside the 3rd Street tunnel, which is now situated amid the Angelus Plaza senior housing complex.

The service will connect Bunker Hill to an area of Downtown known as the Historic District, where an MTA Red Line station, the Grand Central Market and other government buildings are located.

A fare has yet to be determined for the trip, and any future operation costs are expected to be covered by tenants in the California Plaza building and from other private donations, Skorneck said.

Most Downtown businesses and community and historical preservation groups are excited about a rebuilt Angels Flight, which based on a CRA study of passenger demand could end up making between 1,500 and 1,700 trips a day.

"It will be a phenomenal boost in tourism, just like the cable cars in San Francisco are," said John H. Welborne, Los Angeles Conservancy's representative on the Angels Flight coordinating committee. "It's going to have 10 times the ridership it had."

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