Local News in Brief : Ward Fighting Rail Line

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Baxter Ward, campaigning to regain his old post in the June 7 primary, on Wednesday accused county transportation officials of violating a voter-approved law by building light-rail systems such as the the Los Angeles-Long Beach and Century Freeway lines under construction.

Ward, who provided a key vote to place Proposition A on the ballot in 1980, said language in the referendum requires a countywide heavy-rail system, such as the Metro Rail subway under construction in downtown Los Angeles.

The 11-member county Transportation Commission rejected Ward's argument, citing a 1981 legal opinion.

Ward, a former television broadcaster who is one of nine candidates running to unseat Supervisor Mike Antonovich, said he will file suit to halt work on the two light-rail lines under construction and to prevent further study of similar lines for the San Fernando Valley, northeast Los Angeles and South Bay areas.

Several commissioners privately conceded that the former supervisor might have a strong case because the referendum, which raised the sales tax by one-half cent, directs the commission to build rail systems on an "exclusive right-of-way, or guideway. . . ."

Generally, only heavy-rail systems such as Metro Rail utilize an exclusive, or restricted, right-of-way.

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