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Suit Disputing Busway Report Is Dismissed

Times Staff Writer

Clearing the way for an east-west busway across the San Fernando Valley, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a citizens’ group challenging the project’s environmental impact report.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority “did what it was supposed to do under the California Environmental Quality Act,” said Judge David P. Yaffe, adding that the MTA had adequately responded to critics during its review of plans for the 14-mile designated bus corridor.

MTA officials said they are pleased they can move forward with the $329.5-million project.

“The Valley has waited a long time for this,” said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who also serves as an MTA director. “This brings us one step closer.”

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The busway’s opponents said they haven’t ruled out an appeal.

“The public did not have all the facts,” said Diana Lipari, chairwoman of Citizens Organized for Smart Transit, which filed the petition. “We still think it’s bad transportation for the Valley.”

The busway, to be built over old railroad tracks, will stretch from Warner Center in Woodland Hills to the North Hollywood Red Line subway station, with stops that will include Pierce College, Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, Van Nuys Government Center and Valley College.

Most of the buses using the route will be 60 feet in length -- with an accordion-like midsection for turning -- and will be able to carry 50% more riders than standard 40-foot buses. After an earlier projection that an end-to-end run would take 28.8 minutes, officials have since revised the estimate to 35 to 40 minutes.

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Although California’s budget crisis has put transportation funding under a cloud, MTA Chief Executive Roger Snoble has said the busway remains a top priority. The project includes $184.5 million in local money and another $47 million in state money, MTA spokesman Marc Littman said. Uncertain is $98 million in unallocated state funds.

Still, officials expressed confidence the project would proceed as scheduled. The MTA plans to award a contract early next year for designing and building the corridor and hopes to begin construction in March. The busway is set to open in April 2005.

During more than an hour of oral arguments, lawyers debated the safety of the busway, which will have about 12 buses an hour traveling in each direction, rolling through intersections at speeds up to 45 mph.

John Henning, who represented the citizens’ group, said the busway is similar to one in Miami, where serious accidents and fatalities have occurred. But Judge Yaffe sided with the MTA, whose lawyers said Miami’s dangerous intersections are not comparable to the Valley’s busway crossings.

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The Valley busway will have better signs, street paint and more prominently placed traffic signals to make it safer for motorists, said Jeffrey Springer, an MTA lawyer.


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