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Gold Line settles suits for $24 mil.

The Gold Line has avoided having its extension through Arcadia and onto Azusa derailed by paying $24 million to buy privately-owned property and dismiss a half-dozen lawsuits by both sides over land the Gold Line needs for a maintenance yard.

Authorities say the settlement, which was the result of court-ordered settlement negotiations and an agreement to terminate all current and future litigation by this property owner. was preferable to running up costs that could have escalated to $100 million and delayed completion of the project by years.

Construction of the $735 million, 11.5-mile light rail extension with six new stations from Pasadena to Azusa, funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R and overseen by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension, is on schedule to be completed in 2015. The project is estimated to generate nearly 7,000 jobs and $1 billion in economic output for the region during construction. In Arcadia, a new bridge over the eastbound lanes of the 210 freeway is expected to be completed by this summer, and new bridges are to be built over Colorado Blvd and Santa Anita Avenue, as well as a new station on First Avenue at Santa Clara Avenue.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority announced Friday, Feb. 10, that the agency has settled with Excalibur Property Holdings LLC for its land – 20% of the land required for the Foothill Extension light rail project’s maintenance and operations facility.

Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian said The Metro funding agreement requires control of half of the required real estate before the remaining $527 million can be committed. The deal with Excalibur brings the Authority’s total to approximately half of the land needed, which will allow the project to stay on track — budget and on schedule, he said.

Excalibur, which owns 20% of the total land needed for the facility, initiated several lawsuits against the Construction Authority over the last year, and the Authority initiated eminent domain to acquire the land. The legal maneuverings were expensive, a drain on resources, a distraction, and threatened to delay or completely derail the light rail extension. The eminent domain process would have been put in the hands of a jury, with that result being impossible to predict.

Over the last two weeks, the Authority, Metro and Excalibur representatives have agreed to terms through the guidance of Superior Court Settlement Judge Helen Bendix. As the result of this effort, all lawsuits are settled for $24 million.

“Although we feel confident that we would have prevailed on the legal issues over time, the delay caused by the legal process and the uncertainties related to continuing through eminent domain were very risky, making this settlement the best decision for the Authority and our partner Metro,” said Doug Tessitor, Chairman of the Construction Authority Board of Directors and Glendora Mayor.

Balian said the settlement protects taxpayer funds by avoiding continuation of costly litigation and associated significant project delays (which we estimate could increase the project cost by well over $100 million). The agreement amount is within the approved budget for the maintenance facility, keeping the project on budget and on schedule, he said.

— By Scott Hettrick

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