Judge Takes Legal Challenge to Gondola Project Under Submission

Hand and Gavel

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge Friday took under submission a challenge to an agreement between Metro and a private company concerning the possibility of a proposed private, multimillion-dollar aerial tram to transport riders between Union Station and Dodger Stadium, although he said in a tentative ruling that he is leaning toward denying the opposition's petition.

The California Endowment's Los Angeles Superior Court legal action targets the gondola project headed by Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies, which defends the project as proven technology and clean transportation. But the petitioner, a nonprofit group, argues there was insufficient public input.

Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued a tentative ruling ahead of Friday's hearing in which he said he was inclined to reject the petitioner's claims while also lauding the project's technology.

"Metro justifies its unique and innovative decision based on evidence," Beckloff wrote. "Metro notes the proposed project would be the first urban aerial gondola system in the country to employ a tricable detachable gondola system, the most advanced technology currently available. In addition, the evidence demonstrates there is no similar aerial gondola system in use in the United States. While such systems apparently exist outside the United States, there are very few in the world."

Metro's evidence also demonstrates the proposed project would "significantly" improve mobility in and around Dodger Stadium by providing alternative access to the venue, resulting in as much as a 20% to 25% reduction in vehicle trips to and from the stadium on an average game day -- thereby reducing existing traffic for the benefit of surrounding communities and neighborhoods, Beckloff wrote.

After hearing arguments, Beckloff took the case under submission.

In their court papers, Metro attorneys maintain the agency is at this point only conducting the gondola's environmental review and has not approved any aspect of the project. Under Metro's agreement with ARTT, Metro agreed to act as the lead agency for the project and to not solicit proposals from other parties for a limited period of time, according to the Metro attorneys, who further state in their court papers that ARTT will reimburse Metro for staff time and that no Metro funds will be used in connection with the project.

Metro is the only respondent in the petition, which lists ARTT as a real-party-in-interest.

But the petition filed last March 22 alleges that "critical actions in matters of vital public interest were taken administratively, without public knowledge, oversight and/or involvement," all in direct violation of Metro's own policies.

The California Endowment is asking Beckloff to issue a court order directing Metro to immediately halt work on the project, including all Metro staff support provided in its role as lead agency for the endeavor, and to terminate its "sole-source contract" with ARTT.

"At a bare minimum, the determination that the gondola project could proceed as a sole-source project must be revisited and reversed, thereby ensuring that the gondola project will be subject to public review, oversight and a competitive bidding process," the legal action states.

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