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L.A. Subway Construction

October 16, 1994

Re "MTA Chief Ousts Head of Subway Construction," Oct. 12:

Franklin White's decision to confront directly the key issues underlying many of the problems plaguing the Metro Rail construction program--namely, management and accountability--is to be commended. A change of leadership and restructuring of the entire project team are probably the only course that will restore public confidence that this critical project will be completed on time, at reasonable cost and with complete safety for the public.

There is nothing more important to Southern California than an efficient regional transportation system. Unfortunately it appears that politics has skewed our perspective on the original Metro Rail vision. It's time to allow White to exercise the skills and expertise for which he was hired--unfettered by well-meaning second-guessers, or those pursuing a personal agenda. Maybe then we can win back the federal financing without which this project will be impossible, and restore the luster to what should be a shining symbol of progress in our city.


Los Angeles

* The action of the Federal Transit Administration to suspend federal funding for the Metro Rail program, while serious, should be viewed in the proper perspective (Oct. 6). First, it is important to recognize what the FTA action is not. It is not in any way a repudiation of the Los Angeles subway project. The relationship between the MTA and FTA is not adversarial--it is a partnership. FTA Administrator Gordon Linton took great care in his press conference to emphasize the agency's continued support for the Metro Rail project.

Linton also stressed that he expects that this will not be a protracted situation. Indeed, the two primary requirements set down by Linton--cessation of tunneling on the Hollywood line until a full analysis and detailed plans for safe construction procedures are in place, and a revised management plan for Red Line construction--are actions that the MTA was already pursuing.

As the senior California member on the House Appropriations Committee, I have a responsibility to make the case to my colleagues that the Red Line is a project worthy of federal investment. More importantly, I have an overriding duty to my constituents and all Los Angelenos to ensure that this system is built safely and in a fiscally responsible manner.

Only by aggressively addressing the real deficiencies of the MTA organization and the construction practices of its contractors can we address the growing public perception that all is not right with this project. To the extent that the FTA action imbues this process with urgency, the MTA, its board, and supporters of the subway should view this as an opportunity to move expeditiously to regain the federal government's and the public's confidence.


D-Los Angeles

* Honors to The Times for your expose of the subway tunnel debacle. Yes, the contractor should reimburse the MTA for the savings realized with the cheaper wood braces. And the engineers who OKd the braces should have their licenses suspended.



* Re "The Broom Must Sweep Clean," editorial, Oct. 13: The Times should take great satisfaction now that the broom has swept away the best construction manager in the nation, a man of great integrity and skill, and now you cry for the abolition of what you call a quasi-independent subsidiary of the MTA.

The Rail Construction Corp. is a committee made up of MTA board members and a group of volunteer business people with a wealth of experience that have recommended sound business practices for the actions taken by the MTA. All decisions were made at the MTA board. The staff are all MTA employees reporting directly to Franklin E. White, as did Ed McSpedon.

This is structured as a very convenient scapegoat since McSpedon was never given the personnel required by the federal government for the management of this project, or for management control over great areas of his responsibility, even though the RCC board has been requesting these management changes for years.

If Hollywood and this city want a world-class transportation system that will bring people to share its glory, then they are going to have to suffer a little inconvenience. The Times has elected to ignore all the awards and positive investigative reports that would let the public know what McSpedon and a dedicated staff have accomplished for this city and has chosen to focus on only the problem areas that are part of every major public works project.

If just one voice, with a vision, would tell the public what a great system is being built in this city, then there is the possibility of saving this program. I am grateful that as a private citizen I can speak out without any fear of what a newspaper can do to me.

I told the staff that there is light at the end of the tunnel; you just can't see it because the tunnel is out of alignment.


RCC, Los Angeles

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