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Metro Continues Rail Car Talks, Leaving Open Option for Downtown Manufacturing Plant

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 11:45AM
Gold Line Yard Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Light rail cars sit in the Gold Line light maintenance yard in this 2007 photo.

Metro's board voted today to delay action on a $300 million contract for new light rail vehicles, opting to take time for further negotiations in light of new financial commitments by Italian rail firm AnsaldoBreda.

The contract has the potential to mean more than just rail cars. AnsaldoBreda is negotiating to lease 14 of the 20 acres at the Community Redevelopment Agency's proposed CleanTech Manufacturing Center just south of Downtown. That facility and green industry have been cornerstones of the Mayor's agenda for economic recovery.

The night before the contract was scheduled to come up for a vote, AnsaldoBreda President Giancarlo Fantappie pledged a $300 million financial guarantee that his firm would deliver working vehicles on schedule. Speaking before the board today, Fantappie reaffirmed his pledge and said that the firm has a plan to fix the issues identified by Metro.

That pledge was enough to get the board to commit more time to the issue and to fleshing out the details of what the guarantee would entail.

The rail firm's promise to build a manufacturing facility in the city of Los Angeles brought a full contingent of labor support to the Board meeting. Speakers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Chapter 11, LA & OC Building and Construction Trades Council, UAW, Piping Industry Progress and Education, Plumbers Local 78, IBW Local 11, Ironworkers Local 416 and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor all spoke in support of the contract and the local jobs it would bring.

The plant would act as a cornerstone for plans put forward by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Cecilia Estolano, CEO of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, told the board that "the vote that you have before you today is really about the future." She said that the firm would anchor the entire CleanTech corridor for this region."

After a contentious negotiation, the board instructed Metro's CEO to negotiate the financial guarantee by June 15, and voted 10-1 to extend the contract option until July 31.

The lone no vote was cast by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who argued that the transit operator's previous problems with AnsaldoBreda demanded a competitive bid. He asked whether the financial guarantee would "provide cab fare for the people who would be riding the line" if the rail cars don't get built on time.

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