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Wilson Signs Bill Creating a New Agency to Build L.A.-Pasadena Light Rail Line

October 01, 1998|From a Times Staff Writer

In the wake of problems plaguing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill Wednesday that will create another agency to finish the job of building a light rail line between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena.

The bill creates the Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority to take over the stalled project from the MTA.

The new agency will be headed by a five-member board, composed of representatives from the MTA, Los Angeles, Pasadena, South Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.

The bill allows the board to select an executive director, appoint staff and hire consultants.

State Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the bill's principal author, said Wednesday: "At last, we've gotten the Pasadena Blue Line back on track and headed toward building it faster, cheaper and better. The Blue Line, once built, will benefit the San Gabriel Valley for generations to come by easing traffic congestion, stimulating economic development and helping to keep our air clean."

Under the bill, only those funds already designated by the MTA for the Pasadena Blue Line--$270 million in state money and $88.5 million in local dollars--will be shifted to the new agency.

The project's supporters still must close a shortfall of as much as $259 million in the line's construction budget.

But Schiff has said that a single-purpose authority, without the weight of the MTA's baggage, will be able to find a way to build the line far more efficiently.

The bill was neither endorsed nor opposed by the MTA.

The Bus Riders Union, however, opposed the legislation. Members of that passenger advocacy group contend that the bill will siphon away funds needed by the MTA to comply with a federal court order mandating improvements to its troubled bus system.

The MTA spent more than $220 million on engineering and preliminary construction on the Blue Line before the agency's deepening financial problems forced work to be halted earlier this year.

The line would run from Union Station through Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, South Pasadena, Old Pasadena and down the center of the Foothill Freeway to eastern Pasadena.

The line, supporters say, could be running as early as 2002.

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