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Putting an end to months of political bickering over the future of the Eastside subway extension, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week awarded a $65 million contract to supervise the digging.

The MTA’s board voted 8-to-1 on Jan. 22 to award the contract to North Hollywood-based JMA. The consortium will be in charge of the $489 million project, which is set to begin next year.

It also ends the controversy over the MTA’s selection process.

Despite an independent panel’s selection of JMA, former MTA transit chief Joseph Drew in August recommended that Metro East Consultants be hired, even though the panel had ranked it last among the three finalists.

Drew’s recommendation drew immediate criticism from some board members and an internal probe by the MTA’s inspector general. Drew subsequently resigned.

Metro East later filed a lawsuit challenging the MTA’s decision-making process. Neal Papiano, an attorney representing Metro East, indicated that the consortium might challenge the board’s decision in further litigation.

However, MTA Board Chairman Larry Zarian said the board’s decision is final.

“This lets Washington know that we are using transportation funds wisely and making progress,” Zarian said. “We want to move along on this project.”

Joe Bel Bruno

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