Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley on Tuesday joined an intense Capitol Hill lobbying campaign to rescue funding for the embattled Metro Rail subway project and broke his silence on the controversy over tunneling through potentially hazardous gas pockets by declaring that he has no doubt “whatsoever” about the safety of the first phase under downtown.
Bradley, who was in Washington to receive a national award, used the opportunity to call on several key congressmen to argue for the $427 million needed to build the first 4.4-mile segment of the subway line, which faces a showdown vote today before the House of Representatives.
Both sides in the dispute over safety were waging a furious, last-minute campaign of phone calls, letters and personal lobbying of House members to line up support in what has been portrayed here as one of the most crucial tests yet in the long, shaky history of the $3.3-billion project.
By late afternoon, one Metro Rail lobbyist said the vote “is going to be tight.”
Vote Predicted as Close
Aides to influential Westside Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), a past supporter of the project who has demanded that the entire subway route be restudied for safety in the wake of an underground gas explosion at a Fairfax district clothing store, also said the vote could be close. But the Waxman forces added that they may be outgunned by the small army of Metro Rail lobbyists, consultants and supporters working the Hill.
“We are as much concerned about safety as anyone,” Bradley said, noting that both city and state inspectors would personally supervise tunnel construction.
Compromise Bid Fails
Bradley met with Waxman and several other members of the Los Angeles delegation Tuesday morning in a last-ditch attempt to find a compromise that would avoid a political battle on the House floor that could kill the project. For a few hours, it appeared that a settlement was near. But the arrangement came unraveled when the two sides could not come to terms on a re-examination of the downtown leg of the route, where high methane readings have been found in underground probes.
Meanwhile, Waxman, joined by conservative Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-Northridge), the project’s most ardent critic, appeared before the House Rules Committee and won permission to offer an amendment to the transportation money bill that would hold up all spending on Metro Rail until the safety of the entire line is re-evaluated. That amendment, which will be the focus of the expected House floor fight today, would also require independent experts to review the route and change it where necessary to avoid any areas identified as potentially hazardous.
Tuesday night Bradley was to receive the Washington-based National Urban Coalition’s award as the Distinguished Mayor of 1985.