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LA Metro set to win next extension reprieve

PLANS TO rescue a pounds500M extension to the Los Angeles Metro are expected to receive official backing from California state governor Pete Wilson this week.

The move would follow new measures to provide state credit guarantees to local transportation projects, which were enacted on Sunday.

Work on the 31km light rail project, which will link LA to East Pasadena, was put on ice in January when the LA Metropolitan Transport Authority ran into financial difficulties (NCE 22 January). The moratorium followed a catalogue of spectacular tunnelling failures on the 7.5km North Hollywood extension.

Proposals to revive the Blue Line Pasadena extension project were put through the state Legislature at the start of the month by Democratic Senator Adam Schiff. Legislative aid to Schiff, Paul Hubler said this week that the Governor was known to be 'leaning towards signing' the proposals by the end of the month.

Under the plans the Blue Line project would be taken over by a tightly focused construction authority headed by representatives of the LA, Pasadena and South Pasadena city councils. The project management organisation would be expected to save up to pounds70M by reducing the development's overheads.

A funding shortfall of pounds100M is expected to be met through a combination of bonds issued against future parking revenues at two car parks on the route, and joint development deals next to the line. Savings could be achieved by switching the project from a traditional procurement route to a design and build contract.

New laws allowing private companies to borrow money for transport projects more cheaply have helped refinancing plans. Under the laws the state bank will guarantee bonds issued against revenues anticipated by local transportation authorities.

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