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Norwalk Loses Out; Midsummer Opening Promised : Commerce Site Picked for Amtrak Station

March 13, 1988|MARY LOU FULTON | Times Staff Writer

Commerce will be the site of an Amtrak station earmarked for Southeast Los Angeles County, and city officials say the intercity stop will be in operation by midsummer.

The station, which will be the only one between Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and Fullerton in Orange County, will have two stops daily in each direction during non-rush hours.

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission has wanted a train station for the Southeast area because it is considered crucial to increasing ridership along the Los Angeles-to-San Diego route.

The Transportation Commission voted last week to award the station to Commerce after rejecting a request from Norwalk for a two-week delay. Several commissioners cited cost and time factors in voting for Commerce, since the station would cost $200,000 to build there and $1.7 million in Norwalk.

Commerce, which will pay for the project with city Redevelopment Agency money, promised to have the station operating this summer, while Norwalk proposed paying for the project with state and federal funds that would not be available until next year.

Norwalk, which had been granted a 30-day delay last month to come up with a better financing plan, sought additional time to complete a ridership study.

"When this was tabled at the last meeting, the chair (Supervisor Pete Schabarum) asked Norwalk to come back with the money" to build the station, said Commissioner Jacki Bacharach, who supported the Commerce location. "Instead, they have come back with a request for more time to do a ridership study. . . . The riders of Los Angeles are waiting for Amtrak service."

Ray Ramirez, assistant director of development for Commerce, told the commission that Commerce had complied with all the criteria set forth when the project was announced in September. Those criteria included proximity to freeways, parking and the city's ability to pay for the station.

"I hope you don't change the rules because we follow the rules," Ramirez said.

Norwalk Councilman Bob White urged the commission to consider that Norwalk would be just two miles from the Century Freeway and the Long Beach-to-Los Angeles light rail, both under construction.

"A site in Commerce would represent backtracking for the majority of Los Angeles County residents" on their way to San Diego, White said. In the last month, Norwalk has hired a San Francisco consultant to conduct a ridership study, which White said would be completed March 18.

However, some commissioners noted that the commission had not asked Norwalk to do the study and pointed to existing ridership statistics that predict 50 to 100 people will use the station daily. The motion to grant an additional extension to Norwalk was defeated 7 to 4.

The commission then voted 10 to 1 to award the station to Commerce. Schabarum, whose supervisorial district includes Norwalk, cast the lone opposing vote.

Ramirez said Commerce will hire a consultant this week to manage construction of the new station at the intersection of Garfield Avenue and the Santa Ana Freeway.

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