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MTA grants Italian rail car builder more time in contract negotiations

May 28, 2009 |  1:09 pm

Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority board delayed a decision today on whether to hire an Italian rail manufacturer to build 100 cars needed for Metro’s light rail line extensions.
The delay -- the second since March -- would give MTA officials more time to work out the details of a new offer by the firm, AnsaldoBreda, for a $300-million financial guarantee on the potential 100-car contract. The company says the guarantee would ensure that they deliver the cars on time and to Metro’s specifications.
The decision on whether to go forward with AnsaldoBreda’s contract options or seek bids from other rail companies has been topic of intensive debate at the 13-member MTA Board for months.

Earlier this week, Metro’s new Chief Executive Art Leahy recommended declining AnsaldoBreda’s contract options for 100 additional cars, which were to expire at the end of the month. His predecessor, former Metro Chief Executive Officer Roger Snoble, made a similar recommendation after concluding that AnsaldoBreda’s performance under its current 50-car contract did not merit a new order.

The company, which is backed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, has increased pressure on MTA board members to approve the deal by offering to build a new plant east of downtown Los Angeles with union labor if it secures the MTA contract.

And city officials have begun negotiating a ground lease with AnsaldoBreda to build the plant on a city-owned parcel that would anchor Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plans for a clean technology corridor east of downtown.

The 50 cars built by AnsaldoBreda under the base MTA contract are not compatible with other cars in the Metro fleet -- a requirement that AnsaldoBreda says MTA waived -- and the cars are more than 5,000 pounds heavier than specified in the contract. The chief concern for both the former and the new Metro chief executives is that the 50th car in the base contract will be delivered three years late.
AnsaldoBreda Inc. President Giancarlo Fantappie told board members today that the company has put forward a proposal to reduce the weight of the cars and fix the compatibility issue.
A final decision by the board is expected as early as next month.

-- Maeve Reston