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MTA Panel Responsible for Tunnels May Be Cut : Subway: The agency is expected to consider whether to disband the Rail Construction Corp. Aides to Riordan have requested a postponement.

October 11, 1994|RICHARD SIMON and DAVID WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Board members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are expected at a special meeting today to discuss whether to seek tighter control over subway construction in the wake of the federal government's decision to suspend future funding for the troubled project.

But aides to Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan have requested postponement of a proposal to dissolve the subsidiary agency that has supervised construction of the multibillion-dollar subway.

The MTA's chief executive officer, Franklin E. White, has sought since May to dissolve the Rail Construction Corp. subsidiary and may try again today. The meeting was scheduled in response to the Clinton Administration's freezing last week of $1.6 billion of future subway funding for Los Angeles. Administration officials have said the funding will be unlocked when they are satisfied that local transit executives can begin competently managing the construction.

Riordan's transportation aide, Rae James, said Monday that she asked White to postpone action until after the mayor returns later this month from a vacation in Europe. She said Riordan, who sits on the MTA board and appoints three other members to the panel, has asked White for more information before deciding how to vote.

The mayor's position--that a vote should be postponed until after his return--was conveyed to MTA Chairman Ed Edelman on Friday, according to sources familiar with the matter. MTA board members postponed voting on White's proposal Sept. 21 at the requests of Riordan and Councilman Richard Alatorre, both of whom were absent.

Alatorre, who sits on the MTA board as an appointee of the mayor, has said he opposes dissolving the Rail Construction Corp. or firing project officials responsible for the work.

Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who could vote as Riordan's personal alternate, said he hopes that White proposes a strong package of changes and that the MTA board approves them. "I hope Washington won't be flimflammed by small changes and tinkering," he said.

One top MTA board member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he expects today's meeting to result in the removal of some personnel involved with the subway project.

The MTA board has 13 members: all five county supervisors, Riordan, three of his appointees and four elected officials from outlying cities.

Some support appeared to be building for White's proposal to dissolve the RCC--and thereby possibly increase accountability for construction of the multibillion-dollar subway.

In addition to its public session, scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Hall of Administration, the MTA board is expected to meet behind closed doors to discuss unspecified litigation matters related to the shutdown of tunneling along Hollywood Boulevard. Excavation was halted Aug. 18 because of surface sinkages of up to nine inches.

"We should re-evaluate the entire staffing and organization" of the MTA's construction staff, said Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke.

James Cragin, a member of both the MTA and RCC boards, said he favors dissolving the RCC and replacing people responsible for the construction. "We need a clean slate," said Cragin, a member of the Gardena City Council. "As far as I'm concerned, (the RCC board is) the most political thing I've ever seen."

Alatorre said he saw no reason to terminate officials or to support White's proposal.

In another development, two members of last year's Los Angeles County Grand Jury have urged the current panel to conduct a civil investigation into the problems with the subway's construction.

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