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Valley Busway Opponents Told to Reimburse MTA

Group that lost its suit challenging the plan must pay the agency's labor costs, judge says.

March 13, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

A citizens' group that lost a lawsuit seeking to block the construction of an east-west busway across the San Fernando Valley has been ordered to pay $37,415.81 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for document-preparation work.

The award, announced Wednesday by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe, is intended to reimburse the MTA for its labor costs for "searching for and identifying" about 16,000 pages of reports, technical documents and appendices at the request of the citizens' group for the lawsuit, said Principal Deputy County Counsel Ronald Stamm. The citizens' group paid for the paper and copying.

In December, Yaffe threw out a lawsuit filed by the group, Citizens Organized for Smart Transit, which challenged the MTA's environmental impact report over the 14-mile designated bus corridor that is to stretch from Warner Center in Woodland Hills to the Red Line subway station in North Hollywood. The group's appeal is pending.

The MTA has begun some demolition work and plans to award a contract for the $329.5-million project as soon as the California Transportation Commission commits to providing $98 million in state funding, according to the agency. The busway is scheduled to open in 2005.

Diana Lipari, who heads the unincorporated citizens' group, said she was flabbergasted by the ruling and believed it could discourage citizens who want to challenge government projects.

"It's certainly a David-and-Goliath situation here," said Lipari, who vowed to appeal Wednesday's ruling as well. "We don't have the money, so who are they going to get a judgment against?"

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