East LA to Whittier light rail project sparks new debate – Whittier Daily News
Supporters and critics of a planned light rail expansion from East Los Angeles to Whittier on Wednesday August 17 clashed over the cost of the project, whether it’s really needed and the safety concerns of the plan.
The meeting – attended by around 30 people at the Whittier Community Center – was the last of four held by Metro to seek feedback on the 1,012-page environmental impact report on the plan.
The reportwhich was released on June 30, analyzes the nine-mile line that would run underground from the Pomona Freeway station and Atlantic Boulevard to Commerce, then above ground on Washington Boulevard via Montebello, Pico Rivera and Santa Fe Springs, terminating at PIH Health .
The report also analyzed other alternatives:
- build nothing;
- build a 3.2 mile road between East Los Angeles and the Citadel of Commerce; and a plan for
- build a 4.3 mile road between East LA and Greenwood Avenue in Montebello.
The back and forth on the plan has shed new light on long-standing divisions between communities affected by the proposed light rail line in the region, an idea that dates back several years.
Proponents of the nine-mile plan, led by PIH Health and the Whittier Area Chamber of Commerce, argued that light rail would improve transportation and community investment.
“We support the Whittier Subway Extension because we believe it will improve access to healthcare, especially for people who are dependent on public transit,” said Kevin Koga, director of marketing communications for PIH Health.
But many residents of unincorporated East Los Angeles, Montebello and Pico Rivera opposed the light rail proposal.
“There will be traffic jams, environmental problems, delays, pollution. trains crossing, impacts on children going to school and homelessness, said Diana Gonzalez of Pico Rivera.
Edmund Veloz of Montebello, who is leading a campaign to collect signatures against the light rail project, said it was too expensive.
“Electric buses will be more efficient than the Gold Line light rail at 1/100 the cost,” Veloz said.
Mike Martinez of East Los Angeles said his experience with the existing line on Third Street had been poor.
I live across from the existing Gold Line on Third Street,” Martinez said.
“It’s awful,” he said. “There is so much traffic and stains on my house. It comes from traffic and the train. There are a lot of delays especially because of the central bulkhead which makes emergency vehicles take longer to go around and turn around.
Whittier Councilor Fernando Dutra, also a Metro board member and supporter of light rail expansion, in an interview after the meeting said he disagreed with the concerns .
“I appreciate the comments made and the concerns,” Dutra said. “I think some of them are valid, but some have not been thought through,” he said. It’s really about saving the environment. It won’t have a negative impact because we’re going to take the cars off the road. We take people on trains and on buses.
Maggie Moe of Whittier said she had mixed feelings about the proposal, particularly about the Lambert station.
“I don’t see any plans for a parking lot,” Moe said.
“Where are people going to park? she asked. Do you really think people are going to leave their cars and get off at the Gold Line. This will be a big change in our town of Whittier. Where is the traffic going. There will be a network lockdown on Washington.
But Whittier’s Ruben Valdez said the project was necessary, especially with the high price of gas.
“We’ll have an alternative to get to East LA or Whittier, downtown LA, the airport, or various locations,” Valdez said. “It’s something that goes into the future.”
That future became a possibility when voters passed Measure M in 2016, allocating $6 billion to the project. Ultimately, the Metro Board identified the plan as “high priority.”
Motivating Them is a light rail extension that would serve the towns of Commerce, Montebello, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs and Whittier, as well as the unincorporated communities of East LA and West Whittier-Los Nietos.
The project area encompasses more than 700,000 inhabitants while being an employment center for 274,000, according to Metro. Officials believe that light rail serves many members of this population.
The deadline for comments is August 29.
After that, Metro will provide responses to all comments. The metro board is expected to choose its locally preferred alternative by the end of this year. The final environmental impact report and approval are expected in May 2023.