Strike Delays Release of Transit Cost Estimates : Rail: Studies for subway and an elevated guideway are late because planners and programmers were assigned to other duties.


Eagerly awaited cost estimates of the two rail options across the San Fernando Valley, due to be released this month, will be delayed until September because of the recent transit strike, officials said Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had hoped to complete the cost analyses for the two alignments--subway versus elevated guideway--in August, paving the way for its board of directors to choose a route for the long-delayed project.

But the recent nine-day labor walkout took its toll on planners and researchers, many of whom drove buses or were pressed into service in other departments to help the agency maintain its crippled bus operations.

“The strike really did impact us,” said Judith Wilson, head of the MTA’s planning and programming unit, which is compiling the cost comparisons.


Residents and politicians have long awaited the studies as probably the determining factors in the debate on whether to run the line over the Ventura Freeway, like a monorail system, or bury it below ground, between Burbank and Chandler boulevards, as an extension of the Metro Rail subway system.

Supporters of the elevated railway, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, have pointed to cost as the preemptive advantage of such a system, especially now that the MTA is struggling to close a $300-million budget deficit. Past projections put the cost of an overland route at $2.6 billion, less than the $3 billion required for a subway.

But last spring, planners told the MTA board that the price of both projects could be brought down through more efficient construction techniques, the postponement of some station openings and alternate station designs, such as open-air stations for the subway. Advocates of the subway hope costs will drop enough to make a Red Line extension financially competitive with an elevated railway.

Debate over which route to choose will probably be fierce, pitting Antonovich against fellow Supervisor Ed Edelman, who will serve as the MTA chairman until his retirement in December, one of the county’s most politically powerful posts.



Planners want the matter decided by the end of the year to allow work to go forward on the necessary environmental studies, which must be completed in time for the agency to apply for money from a special fund in the 1997 federal budget.

The cost analyses were delayed by the transit strike as employees in planning and programming were assigned to driving buses and other duties. MTA spokeswoman Andrea Greene said 55% of the unit’s staff--the highest proportion of any department--were switched to strike-related tasks.

"(It) took the brunt of the call for strike duty,” Greene said.