Metro Narrows Routes for Gold Line East Down to Two

By EGP and CNS

Metro officials have released tentative plans for an extension of light rail passenger train service to east of Los Angeles, and now cities along the possible routes are closely dissecting the $15 million draft environmental report to determine how their cities will be impacted.

At issue is extending the southern leg of the Gold Line, which now runs from Union Station through Boyle Heights to a temporary terminus at East Los Angeles.

The comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIS/EIR) for the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2, released Friday by Metro identifies two possible extensions: along the Pomona (60) Freeway east to South El Monte, or on pylons above Garfield Avenue and then east next to Washington Boulevard to Whittier.

The Gold Line environmental review cautions that both the Route 60 and the Whittier options would involve extensive bridges and viaducts. Neighborhood character might be changed, Metro warns, by long viaducts needed along Garfield, if the Whittier branch is chosen.

The Route 60 option would cost $1.2 billion, and Whittier would cost $1.9 billion. Measure R sales tax revenues would fund most of it, but Metro officials hope for federal money to both speed up the project, and pay for it.

Seeing the potential for added revenue and traffic easing, cities along the two routes, including Commerce, Monterey Park and Montebello, have been lobbying their preference for in hopes of getting their favored route into the review plan, four years in the making.

The regional nature of the project prompted several cities to form coalitions to push their preferred route, which in the case of Montebello and Monterey Park is Route 60, along the Pomona 60 Freeway.

According to the report, Route 60 would be 6.9 miles in length, and requires the demolition of eight businesses, but no homes.

In contrast, the Washington Boulevard alignment, favored by the Commerce and Whittier, would require the removal of 58 businesses and 9 homes along the 9.5 miles route.

But Whittier-area cities note the Washington Boulevard alignment would serve more people than what one city manager called another disconnected train above a freeway, like the unattractive Green Line route. Metro estimates 19,900 daily boardings for the proposed train to Whittier, versus 16,700 for the proposed train on pylons straddling the 60 Freeway.

“What the eastside needs is public transportation that can take people from where they live to where they work; to connect residents to jobs,” said former Pico Rivera Mayor and current Councilman Gustavo V. Camacho, last year. “Because this alignment is envisioned to run right through the heart of the County’s industrial center, along Washington Blvd., we see this route as the best way to shorten the distance from people’s door steps to the front door of their work.”

The proposed extension of the southern leg of the Gold Line will soon connect to the Expo Line to Santa Monica, and Metro has discussed plans for through passenger trains between East L.A. and the beach using the new tunnel now under construction downtown and the Civic Center, the “Regional Connector.”

The same tunnel will connect the Blue Line to Long Beach with the northern leg of the Gold Line, which is being extended east from Sierra Madre to Azusa, and eventually to Montclair.

Metro’s board of directors is expected to decide in November which of the four options — that also include a no build alternative and an option to improve existing freeways, streets and bus transportation — as well as the Route 60 and Washington Boulevard alternatives, to advance for further study.

The environmental study for the Gold Line extension can be found at

metro.net/projects/eastside_phase2/draft-eis-eir. Open houses will be held on the alternatives in    September in Montebello, Pico Rivera, South El Monte and Whittier.

 

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August 28, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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