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Metro to try mediation with CAF

Whatever works.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to negotiate the cancellation of a $331 million contract with a Spanish rail car manufacturer through mediation, local transit bosses said Wednesday.

That is why, despite the agency’s announced intention to cancel the contract, no action [was] proposed on [Thursday’s] agenda, explained Metro President George Greanias and board Chairman Gilbert Garcia.

They said they hope to begin mediation next month and begin soliciting new bids in January to provide 105 light rail cars.

[…]

The Metro board will deal with the rail car contract on a future agenda. Regardless of whether mediation succeeds, Greanias and Garcia explained, the contract with Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, or CAF, will be canceled.

“We are going to terminate this contract,” Greanias said. “We’re just trying to do it in the most businesslike, efficient manner we can.”

And if they can avoid litigation and minimize the cost of doing so, all the better.

Now for the bad news:

[Metro’s] president, George Greanias, announced that the light rail expansion budget for this year has been cut by close to 70 percent, from $458 million to $143 million.

That means more than a hundred construction, engineering, small business and community outreach contracts are being reduced or suspended.

The changes stem from Metro’s financial woes and the Federal Transit Administration’s announcement in September that Metro had violated Buy American rules, delaying its federal funding even further.

“These are difficult and regrettable decisions,” Greanias said. “We’ve taken the agency down to the foundation to start from a totally financially sound base.”

But, he added, “It’s going to be a very difficult path as we move forward.”

Utility work will continue on the North and Southeast lines until the end of this year, and utility and road work go on as planned in “select areas” on the East End line. The rest is going the way of the buffalo. At least for now.

Because Greanias and Metro’s board chairman, Gilbert Garcia, stressed that the light rail plans aren’t completely shutting down. That would be more expensive — costing about $200 million, according to Greanias — than suspending the operation until the federal funding picture becomes more clear.

This was expected, but it’s still lousy to see happen. All we can do is hope that the FTA funding that we’ve been counting on all along comes through sooner rather than later.

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