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ORANGE LINE GETS COURT WIN COST PLANS APPEAL AS WORK CONTINUES.

Byline: Lisa Mascaro Staff Writer

Opponents of the San Fernando Valley Orange Line failed Monday to persuade a judge to halt the project and planned to try other legal tactics even as crews stepped up work on the $330 million busway.

Dug-up intersections that sat idle during the 23-day shutdown were back under construction as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe told Citizens Organized for Smart Transit that his court had no authority to stop the project while the appeals process is under way.

But legal experts were divided on which court has jurisdiction to consider COST's request for an injunction to halt construction, which is 40 percent complete.

COST attorneys said they plan to return to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, which temporarily stopped the project Aug. 2 after also ordering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct an environmental study on alternatives to the busway.

Because of confusion over what the appellate court had ruled, the MTA continued the shutdown for a week after the order halting construction had lapsed.

And once it was sorted out, the MTA asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the appellate court order for the environmental study. The state Supreme Court has 90 days to decide whether it will even consider the case.

Despite the continuing legal confusion, MTA leaders welcomed Monday's decision as a victory for the project, which lost $1.5 million during the shutdown.

``This is a victory for common sense,'' Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said as he stood on the steps of the courthouse after the hearing.

``This project will provide a viable, dependable and quicker alternative for Ventura Freeway commuters and the public-transit-dependent. We are grateful for the court's action.'' But COST, which has been fighting to shut down the project ever since the appellate court agreed in July that the MTA must study a system of Rapid buses as an alternative, says construction shouldn't continue until that study is done.

``Why would you continue to spend money on a project when you're supposed to be analyzing an alternative?'' COST Chairwoman Diana Lipari said.

``Obviously, MTA's committed to this project - and that's our point. They were never willing to consider our point. Ever. We think (Rapid buses) will serve more riders in the Valley and at least be equal to, if not beat, the commute (time of the busway).''

The MTA launched the court-ordered study weeks ago, despite its request to the state Supreme Court to reverse that order.

The MTA has argued that Rapid buses were only a pilot project when the busway went forward in 2002, and the new study could take nine months and spike the Orange Line's price tag by $100 million, threatening amenities once planned along the route.

Even if the MTA ultimately determines that Rapid buses would be feasible, the agency could opt to continue with the Orange Line.

Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761

lisa.mascaro(at)dailynews.com

BUSWAY UPDATE

--About 25 percent of the construction crews were back at work Monday following a 23-day work shutdown on the Orange Line busway. Workers are concentrating on stabilizing a retaining wall under the San Diego Freeway, and completing improvements at Woodman and Oxnard avenues; and Mason Avenue and Victory Boulevard.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 31, 2004
Words:550
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