Commerce Considers Impacts of Gold Line Eastside Extension

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

For more than a year, Metro officials have been conducting technical studies to fine-tune two proposed alternatives for Phase 2 of the Gold Line Eastside Extension, including taking a closer look at what it would take to bring rail service to the City of Commerce.

Though there are talks that in the future both alternatives ¬– one along the SR-60 Pomona Freeway and the other traveling south to Washington Boulevard – could come to fruition, the City of Commerce is very interested in seeing the Washington alternative built first, Councilwoman Lilia R. Leon said during the Nov. 15 city council meeting.

A Gold Line connection to Washington Boulevard would create the opportunity for stops near the Citadel Outlets or Commerce Casino, the two largest revenue generators for the city.

“What we heard loud and clear was the idea of exploring a Metro connection to the Citadel,” said Eugene Kim, project manager for the Eastside Phase 2 Project.

The two alternatives up for discussion have not changed much since they were presented to the public in late March.

One possible alternative would extend the Gold Line 6.9 miles east – from where it currently ends at Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles – along the SR-60 Pomona Freeway and ending in South El Monte. The second alternative would travel nearly 9 miles, providing a north-south connection from Atlantic Boulevard to Washington Boulevard, before traveling east to the city of Whittier.

Metro plans to present the two refined alternatives to the public in spring 2017 and begin talking about reinitiating the environmental impact report process, according to Kim.

One of the biggest challenges Metro officials face however, is selecting a route to get to Washington Boulevard, says Kim.

Earlier this year, Metro identified Garfield Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard and Arizona Avenue as the three most promising routes for the connection. The two latter options would allow for a stop near the Citadel, but present challenges in the heavily congested area known as the Mixmaster, where Atlantic Boulevard crosses the I-5 Santa Ana Freeway.

“Commerce is a very important partner in identifying ways to make that connection,” Kim said.

Eastside residents and business owners have repeatedly expressed complained that under the current proposals their community would once again have to shoulder more than its fair share of the burden from transportation projects in the region, as it has done for decades.

Many believe the Washington Alternative would benefit the Citadel and Commerce Casino at the expense of eastside residents forced to live through the construction. They claim eastside businesses would also suffer, just like they did when the Gold Line was first extended to the eastside along 3rd Street.

“Someone is going to lose and someone is going to gain, but we haven’t done any of the gaining so far,” East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Eddie Torres told the Commerce City Council during their meeting.

“You need to take some of the impacts too.”

Metro left “no stone unturned” when it considered 27 possible alternatives to reach the Washington Corridor, Kim said, but ultimately it will be necessary to cut through Commerce.

Other potential challenges include routes that travel near Southern California Edison transmission lines, crossing a very active freight corridor and rail spurs that serve local businesses.

“Without an alternative that has the support of the city, cooperation of city staff, it will be very difficult to identify a real viable Washington Boulevard Corridor alternative,” Kim explained.

Metro officials are looking at designs that include aerial and underground stations to address the obstacles.

An underground station in close proximity to the widely visited Citadel Outlets could be possible with a tunnel-boring machine, but that would require Metro to acquire up to 5-acres of land, Kim told the council.

Metro officials are also looking for a 12- to 15-acre site for a maintenance facility to compliment the project.

“Have you been looking at the city of Commerce,” Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca Del Rio asked Kim.

“We’ve been looking everywhere along the corridor,” he responded.

Metro officials have not identified a specific area or parcel for the proposed facility, but back in October they took Commerce officials on a tour of a Metro maintenance yard in Santa Monica to give them a better understanding of what such a facility could look like if built in the city.

The idea of building such a large facility, coupled with the tunnel-boring activity, has city officials concerned about what they see as the inevitable disruption to the city’s busiest commercial corridor.

The city needs more details about what would go on “because we have a lot of activity around that whole area and those impacts need to be properly assessed, ” Councilman Hugo Argumedo said.

Councilwoman Leila Leon was quick to point out that although a Washington route would serve the city’s major destinations, it is just as crucial to work with its neighbors.

“It’s not about the Citadel or casino,” said Leon, acknowledging that “yes we would benefit.”

“We need to look at how we can partner with the Eastside to revitalize East Los Angeles, so they’re not feeling left out.”

 

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December 1, 2016  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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