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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (LACMTA) board yesterday agreed to advance a master plan for Union Station from the planning to implementation stage.The action means LACMTA now can pursue its initial strategy for near-term projects, including environmental review of recommend transit projects as well as commercial development. In addition, LACMTA can begin seeking funding opportunities for improvements to the station's perimeter, agency officials said in a press release.The master plan, which preserves the historic station, features improvements that build on ongoing restoration and upgrades, such as new signage, restoration of the historic furnishings, woodwork, metalwork, chandeliers and repainting. Further planned improvements call for renovating the 75-year-old roof and installing new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for the historic station. Work will be monitored by historic architectural consultant firm ARG and the Los Angeles Conservancy. In addition to restoration work, LACMTA has begun actively leasing spaces at the station.Planned enhancements to the station's perimeter include streetscape, open space and transit stops that improve the environment for riders, pedestrians and cyclists. Also, a surface parking lot on the northern side of the station's forecourt will be removed to create a public plaza. The overall improvements will link with the El Pueblo Historic monument, where $1 million in local open space funds have been identified to supper the design and implementation of the improvements, agency officials said.LACMTA has been working on the Union Station master plan for the past two years.Also this week, the board awarded a two-year contract for $646,462 to Del Richardson & Associates Inc. to operate LACMTA's pilot Business Solution Center to help small businesses affected by the Crenshaw/LAX transit project. The contract includes two one-year options for $349,682, for total of $996,144."Rail construction is always challenging and it's particularly difficult for nearby businesses, that’s why we are committed to standing with these merchants during the whole construction process," said Vice Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. "This Business Solution Center – while not solving all problems — is an important first step toward helping the local business community survive and thrive during the difficult days. We are happy that we could make this happen."