Budget delays plan for Grand Avenue

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County officials, charged with overseeing $14.5 million in upgrades to Grand Avenue before the October opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, say state budget delays have knocked their plans off schedule, raising questions on whether the job can be done in time.

Reluctant to delay the project until next year, county officials are investigating several ways to condense a construction schedule that was expected to take eight months, said Lyn Wallensak, principal analyst for the county chief administrator's office.

The project, which calls for realigning the avenue, widening sidewalks and adding landscaping, seating and lighting between Temple and 2nd streets, depends on the California Transportation Commission for $9.5 million in funding. The remaining funds would come from the Music Center and other government sources.

In coming weeks, Wallensak said, county supervisors will lay plans in consultation with the Music Center, which operates the concert hall, and the Grand Avenue Committee, a civic group that has enlisted public and private entities in a campaign to upgrade the area. Wallensak said "it would be very difficult" to get all the work done in time.

Originally, officials said, the commission was to have approved the $9.5 million in December, in order to get the estimated eight-month improvement project done before October. Instead, that decision was delayed amid the scramble to face a state budget shortfall estimated at $34.6 billion. Now, officials say, the transportation commission won't be able to vote on the spending before late February. Assuming the funding level stays where it is -- which county officials say is likely but not certain -- county supervisors wouldn't be able to vote to set the work in motion until March 4.

"If you ask me, the window of opportunity is gone," said Martha Welborne, managing director of the Grand Avenue Committee. "The last thing you want," she said, "is to be under construction during the opening."

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