The MTA board today agreed to pay $28.5 million to compensate the Expo Line contractor for delays, boosting the project's budget to $927.4 million.

The board discussed the settlement in closed session before approving it, 8-0, in public.

Supervisor Gloria Molina, who was not present for the public vote, blasted the project overruns in an interview earlier this week.

“They're way over budget, and they say 'tough luck, give us more money,'” Molina said. “Why should I be bound to pay something that hasn't had any scrutiny at the MTA level?”

The L.A. Weekly detailed the dispute between the Expo Construction Authority and the contractor, Flatiron/Fluor/Parsons, in last week's cover story, “L.A.'s Light-Rail Fiasco.”

Each side blamed the other for delays the project. FFP's claims went before an arbitration panel last spring, which ruled in the company's favor. That ruling related specifically to delays caused by the L.A. Department of Water and Power and its slowness to relocate power lines at the La Cienega train bridge. That ruling led to today's settlement agreement.

Molina has a poor relationship with Expo's CEO, Rick Thorpe, dating back to her concerns about the way Thorpe managed the Eastside extension of the Gold Line, which is in her district. Molina argues that Westside projects should not get preference over the rest of the region, and that any overruns on Expo should come out of other Westside projects.

“Why should the rest of the region have to suffer the fools of one region?” Molina asked.

The MTA board announced that today's settlement will be paid for out of funds set aside for the late stages of the Wilshire subway.

Molina argued that there has been a lack of accountability on the Expo project.

“There are so many lessons, but they're not willing to acknowledge them,” she said. “They just say, 'That was a quirk, or no, (Thorpe) knew what he was doing.'”

“This mistake is bold and strong, and it's as expensive as it can be,” she said. “This is a disaster of all times.”

The Expo Line is now $287.4 million over its original budget of $640 million.

Also, I was on KPCC's AirTalk this morning to discuss the Expo project with Darrell Clark, co-chair of Friends4Expo Transit. That conversation can be heard here. Rick Thorpe could not join the discussion because he was at the MTA board meeting.

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