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$4.5-Million Expansion of Train Station Set for August

Transit: Official says the changes will benefit CSU Channel Islands students and help make Camarillo area a transportation center in the county.


CAMARILLO — A planned $4.5-million expansion of the Camarillo train station is the first step toward creation of a mid-county transportation hub that will provide more transit opportunities for students at the developing Cal State University Channel Islands.

Set to begin in August, the station expansion will double to 600 the number of parking spaces, add another train platform and improve lighting and security. Plans also call for a modified track for train passing and a pedestrian over-crossing on the north side of the Ventura Freeway.

The expansion is partly designed to accommodate anticipated transportation demands at the nearby university, said Mary Travis, director of rail programs for the Ventura County Transportation Commission. The university is set to open in 2002, the same year the station expansion is scheduled to be completed.

But it could also evolve into a substantial transportation center, capable of handling more trains, buses and cars near the Ventura Freeway, outlet shops and a downtown city promenade.

This week, the Camarillo City Council recommended awarding a $300,000 contract to Vicqui McCaslin, a local artist, to design a Spanish-style facade for the inside walls of the planned train shelter.

Her baroque designs and tile work are meant to complement the ongoing redevelopment theme of downtown Camarillo, according to transportation engineer Tom Fox.

Fox said the redesign will make the station more comfortable and accommodating, and at the same time allow more trains to travel the corridor in the middle of the day. The current station was built as a temporary structure after the 1994 Northridge earthquake to help residents get to work in downtown Los Angeles.

"It will have the feeling of a station, instead of an underpass," Fox said. "It will be a refuge that is an inhabitable area with improvements like seating, benches and artwork."

Although the county already has a "transportation center" in Oxnard, officials said there is room for another one, especially so close to the freeway.

The Oxnard transportation center is the hub of SCAT, the west county bus service, and draws an Amtrak Coast Starlight train, which goes from Los Angeles to Seattle with minimal stops.

However, the Camarillo station's proximity to the university makes it an ideal location for students. And it is in the geographic center of the county, allowing train or bus travelers to transfer without straying too far from the freeway.

"For Camarillo, this is the next logical step in growing up," Travis said. "They have established their commercial center, focused on improving access to trains and buses and they are working to tie it together."

Other major construction projects are planned for the area that will complement the station expansion and improve transit options, officials said.

A $34-million state project, set to begin in May 2001, will reconfigure the Ventura Freeway and Lewis Road interchange. Improvements will include new on- and offramps, a widened Ventura Freeway bridge, possibly to eight lanes, and widening of Daily Drive.

Set for completion in 2003, the project will involve the state and county working together to widen Lewis Road between the train station and the university from one lane in each direction to two lanes.

Camarillo Councilwoman Charlotte Craven, who also sits on a housing board for the university, said the improved station will help students travel to and from the campus.

"I'm excited by the idea that people will come from all over the county by bus or train or car," she said. "They can park there and transfer to a bus to take to the university."

Currently two Metrolink trains leave Camarillo in the early morning headed for Los Angeles and return in the evening.

Travis said there are constant requests for midday train service to Los Angeles, but the tracks cannot currently accommodate extra traffic. After construction, trains will be added, she said.

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