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Transit board votes for more oversight of Expo light-rail project

November 8, 2010 |  5:36 pm

Concerned about rising costs, the board responsible for building the Expo light-rail line through central Los Angeles  unanimously decided on Monday to improve oversight of the project and replace its part-time ethics officer.

On a motion by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority voted to rely on the inspector general’s office of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which would have the power to investigate, review and audit the light-rail project.

Before the vote, the Expo authority had contracted with the MTA for a part-time ethics officer.

“There has been relatively little oversight on this score,” said Ridley-Thomas, who sits on both MTA and Expo boards. “Given the amount of money being spent, it ought to be standard operating procedure to have an independent inspector general.”

Ridley-Thomas said he was concerned that the cost of building the project’s first phase from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City has increased by about $345 million to $895 million. The second phase of the project to Santa Monica is estimated to cost about $1.5 billion.

According to a report by the MTA’s inspector general, the new relationship should increase public confidence in the project by improving its efficiency, safety and financial controls. Strengthening the oversight also will put Expo in a better position to attract federal economic stimulus funds or other government assistance, the report stated.

-- Dan Weikel