Whittier, Pico Rivera want light rail

LOS ANGELES - The cities of Whittier, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Santa Fe Springs, along with major employers and community leaders announced this week that they have joined to form the Washington Blvd. Light Rail Transit Coalition to advocate to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA) in support of the Washington Blvd. alignment to the Eastside Gold Line Extension. The LACMTA is expected to release a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) early next year, and vote on a preferred route later in 2014. The Draft EIR will study two potential routes for Phase 2 extension of the Eastside Gold Line. "The Washington Blvd. alignment has the highest projected ridership among all the alternatives being studied, extends light rail the farthest east into the County where more people live and work, and is expected to cost less per mile than the alternative," said LACMTA Chair and Lakewood Councilwoman Diane DuBois. "In every measurement, the Washington Blvd. alignment appears to be the superior choice." "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 Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo V. Camacho. "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." Whittier Mayor Bob Henderson hailed the proposed Washington Blvd. alignment as "the right route for light rail in East Los Angeles." Henderson continued, "By extending the Gold Line further into East Los Angeles, workers will have convenient and affordable access to one of the most jobs-rich regions of the County." The Washington Boulevard alignment being studied would extend the Gold Line Eastside Extension from its current terminus at the Atlantic Station east to Garfield, south to the City of Commerce, and east along Washington Blvd. through the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, and terminating in the City of Whittier. The line is to run mostly at-grade, with elevated portions being evaluated at some major street crossings. "As the largest employer in the region, extending the Gold Line to our front door would not only increase access to healthcare but also provide much needed public transportation for those who work in our medical center facility," commented Jim West, President and CEO of PIH Health, formerly Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, located at the proposed light rail terminus in Whittier. The Draft EIR will also analyze an alternative alignment to Washington Blvd. along SR-60. Because the SR-60 proposed alignment would be mostly adjacent to the freeway and pass through less concentrated areas, passengers would more likely access stations from the freeway, rather than from adjacent neighborhoods. "It won't require a freeway drive to get on the Gold Line in our town," says Santa Fe Springs Mayor Richard Moore. "The Washington Blvd. alignment will be located right within our neighborhoods, convenient to where our residents live and work." Designed for transit users, The Washington Blvd. alignment would serve 3,200 more daily riders than the SR-60 alternative; provide direct access to more jobs than the other alternative; and serve daily commuters traveling both east and west at peak and non-peak hours. Additionally, the Washington Blvd. alignment provides more direct access for senior citizens and low-income residents living within the study area, who are among the most transit dependent. County Supervisor and LACMTA Board member Don Knabe noted, "It is critical that Metro build transit where it will be most needed and best used. In my view putting this line right next to a freeway does not make sense, especially when there is an opportunity to build it in the community and get more riders to use the line."

********** Published: Dec. 5, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 34