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Commuter Child-Care Center to Be Unveiled : Transit: Metrolink will open facility at San Bernardino County station Monday. Another will be built as part of a court order to serve Century Freeway users.


Working parents frustrated by the twin rituals of child care and commuting will soon find relief--next to a freeway and at a train station.

What is billed as the first child-care center ever built at a train station will open Monday at the Metrolink station in the San Bernardino County community of Montclair, to be followed by two more in the San Fernando Valley.

And residents who live along the Century Freeway will have a place to drop off their children next summer when a child-care center is built near the freeway in Willowbrook as an offshoot of the freeway construction program. It will open about the same time that the Green Line light-rail system begins running down the middle of the freeway from Norwalk to El Segundo.

The child-care center at the Montclair station--named Kids' Station--is one of three that Metrolink plans to open in the next two years. The others will be at the Chatsworth and Sylmar/San Fernando stations. Both are being built by Metrolink, a five-county agency that operates commuter trains, with funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"We want to encourage people to car-pool," Metrolink spokesman Peter Hidalgo said. "This new center eliminates the trips back and forth from day care to stations. Convenience is what commuters want."

Officials from the Century Freeway Housing Program, which oversees the building of housing for residents displaced by freeway construction, say they are close to finalizing plans to build a child-care center.

The program--established by a court order--has set aside $2.5 million in state and federal transit funds for the center, which will serve 70 to 100 children. Priority will be given to residents of 2,700 low-income housing units built to replace units lost because of the freeway construction and passengers riding the Green Line light-rail system, located down the middle of the freeway.

The Century Freeway child-care center is the latest addition in a special package of amenities, including housing and job opportunities, aimed at residents in the path of the freeway.

In a 1981 federal court consent decree, state highway officials pledged to deal with the needs of displaced residents. They also agreed that 35% of the contractors hired would be female and minority contractors.

The $2.5-billion Century Freeway, the most expensive freeway in the nation's history, has been the subject of much scrutiny and controversy. Its vast budget and contracting problems caused Caltrans officials and housing administrators to reassess the handling of finances and freeway construction.

For the last three years, federal appeals court Judge Harry Pregerson, who monitors the consent decree, has been working with Caltrans, the Century Freeway Housing Program and the MTA to develop the child-care center. They say the center will be important to residents of Lynwood and Compton, as well as residents of low-income housing built to replace units destroyed during freeway construction.

The child-care center will offer not only child care, but workshops on parenting skills and job training.

Pregerson, who has overseen the Century Freeway case since residents first filed suit to protest the impact of the project in 1972, said he has been working for years to make child-care centers a part of city transit planning.

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