The cities of Commerce, Norwalk, Pico Rivera and Santa Fe Springs are jockeying for commuter train stations that are proposed in a draft report by the Los Angeles-San Diego State Rail Corridor Study Group.
The draft, which will be completed in June and presented to the Legislature, proposes building three new stations between downtown Los Angeles and Fullerton. Currently there are no rail passenger stops along that route.
One of the proposed stations would be in East Los Angeles, according to Craig Johnson, a rail development officer for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and a member of the study group. The other two stops are up for grabs, and Commerce, Norwalk, Pico Rivera and Santa Fe Springs have expressed interest. Planners for Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs are considering putting a station on their mutual border and splitting the cost 50-50.
Four New Commuter Trains Proposed
Two of the proposed stations would be "commuter" stops, designed to serve four new commuter trains a day--two in the morning and two at night--between San Clemente and downtown Los Angeles. No other trains would stop at these two stations.
The third would be an Amtrak station and would handle both the commuter trains and regularly scheduled Amtrak passenger trains.
The draft study also proposes four commuter trains a day between Oceanside and San Diego, Johnson said, as well as three new stations for Orange County.
The 10-member group responsible for the study is composed of representatives of Caltrans, transportation commissions from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, Amtrak, the state Assembly and Senate, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Co. and the California Labor Federation.
Study Is in Response to Legislation
The study was undertaken in response to state legislation aimed at upgrading existing Amtrak rail service. The study group was charged with finding ways to reduce train running times, make service more reliable and increase public access to the Amtrak system through new stations.
But the proposals are tied to some big dollar signs. Although cities in Southeast Los Angeles County seem willing to pay at least some of the money to build local stations, nobody has volunteered to come up with the enormous sums necessary to establish and operate a new train service.
The total package, the study says, would cost $257 million. The draft report recommends that $118 million come from the state, $50 million from local governments, $84 million from Amtrak and $5 million from the Santa Fe Railway, which shares tracks with Amtrak trains from Vernon to Fullerton.
The report proposes that Amtrak get its share of the money from congressional appropriations, which have financed similar Amtrak improvements elsewhere in the country. Although Amtrak has been a participant in the study, agency spokesman Clifford Black said Amtrak will have no comment on the proposals until the study is made public in June.
Lee Deter, chief of the division of mass transportation for Caltrans, said he could not predict how the Legislature would react to a request for money. "Only time will tell," he said. "Times are tough right now in Sacramento."
State Subsidizes Amtrak Service
Johnson said the study was undertaken precisely because the state recognizes that Amtrak alone lacks the funds to upgrade its facilities. Since 1976, the state has subsidized three round-trip Amtrak trains a day between Los Angeles and San Diego at a cost of $27.5 million so far.
At this point, Johnson said, none of the cities in the Southeast area has an edge in obtaining the stations. There are engineering concerns with the Commerce and Pico Rivera proposals, and the Norwalk-Santa Fe Springs site would require construction of an additional track to permit trains to pass each other.
"These will all be factors in the decision," he said, "as will how much cities are willing to contribute, how much parking is available and how accessible the location is to the users."
It is not entirely clear who would ultimately make the decision on where stations would be placed, since it is still unclear where funding would come from or what governing board would oversee the project.
Commerce Wants a Transit Center
Jim McIntyre, assistant planner for Commerce, said a commuter station would fit with the city's desire for a transit center at the intersection of Garfield Avenue and the Santa Ana Freeway.
"When you look at Commerce, logically it's the best place," he said. "No new construction is necessary, except for the station. We have railroads with separated grade crossings, so after leaving the station, trains could get moving fast, with no interruptions.
"All the other necessary things are in: We have gang tracks for the railroad, RTD buses going along Garfield, direct freeway access with off-ramps already in and space for 150 cars in a park-and-ride (parking lot)."