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O.C. Metrolink Is on a Roll

Rail service: Tenth station is set to open Friday with two more in the works. Goal is to get more south county commuters off roads.

April 17, 2002|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After more than a decade of planning, the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink station will open Friday, the 10th platform along Orange County's rail line.

The $9.8-million facility is expected to take pressure off the popular and congested San Juan Capistrano and Irvine rail stations, Orange County Transportation Authority officials said. The hope is that it will also convince more South County commuters to use public transportation.

The depot is a fully automated station--there are no employees. Located on Forbes Road just south of Crown Valley Parkway, it will have 300 parking spaces and four electric-vehicle charging stations. Two more Metrolink stations, one in Buena Park and another in Yorba Linda, should be open within three years.

"It's been a long haul, but I think it's going to be worth it," said Mission Viejo Mayor Susan Withrow, also a member of OCTA's board of directors.

The station has been years in the planning. In the early 1990s, Mission Viejo officials secured grant money for building the platform but were unable to find a location.

Officials in neighboring Laguna Niguel suggested a wedge of land between Interstate 5 and the San Joaquin Hills toll road. But the project was held up by funding problems and a dispute with the owner of a company that occupied an acre of the desired land.

The owner of Sepulveda Building and Supplies, John Connors, was eventually paid $1.6 million by OCTA for his property.

Supervisor Tom Wilson, who was mayor of Laguna Niguel when the plan was developed, helped OCTA and Connors reach an agreement.

"I certainly have spent a lot of time on this project," said Wilson. "It was important to me that we pulled some pressure off our other stations and gave commuters another alternative."

Parking at the Irvine station, eight miles up the tracks, has become so limited that OCTA hired a valet service to squeeze dozens of extra cars into 630 marked parking spots.

Parking is also tight at the San Juan Capistrano depot, three miles south.

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