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Subway Stop's Cost Increases $3 Million

MTA agrees to pay for street widening, other expenses at Red Line's Universal City station.

June 27, 2003|Kurt Streeter | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County transit officials agreed Thursday to spend an extra $3 million for street widening and other expenses related to the Red Line's subway stop in Universal City, boosting once again the cost of that project, now nearing $40 million.

In addition to the street-widening money, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board agreed the agency should pay an additional $1.4 million to the builder of the overpass connecting Lankershim and Ventura boulevards near the stop. The overpass was finished in 2002, but the contractor wanted more money because it was forced to wait through a costly delay of nearly a year.

The expenses are the latest in a long-running effort to build the stop, which has resulted in lawsuits and costs that have increased by millions of dollars during the life of the project.

The delay involving the overpass occurred largely because of concerns by the L.A. Bureau of Engineering over the type of retaining wall planned by the contractor, Fontana-based Brutoco Engineering and Construction Inc.

Although the wall was a commonly used type of retaining structure, the city ordered additional soil tests and reviews. That took several months, and the MTA believed it had no choice but to pay the contractor because the delays were not the builder's fault, construction manager Dennis Mori said.

The additional costs increased the budget for the freeway overpass construction project to more than $37 million. In 1999, when the deal with Brutoco was approved, the contract was to cost nearly $28 million. The roughly $9-million increase comes from scores of change orders approved by the MTA since then.

The MTA also decided Thursday to spend $1.9 million on widening Lankershim Boulevard near the station. The MTA's construction staff members entered the meeting seeking approval for nearly twice that amount, but then a motion by county Supervisor and MTA board member Zev Yaroslavsky to limit expenditures was passed.

The agency agreed in 1994 to changes sought by MCA, then the parent company of Universal Studios, that called for the MTA to pay for access routes from its station to Universal City. Some of the changes have been disputed for years, and Universal in February filed a lawsuit against the MTA, saying the transit agency broke promises to build a pedestrian walkway. The MTA initially said the underground walkway would cost about $2 million, but the latest estimates put the price tag at $23 million.

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