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Funds OKd for Palmdale Transit Facility

November 08, 2002|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Anticipating more planes, trains and automobiles in the rapidly growing Antelope Valley, the California Transportation Commission approved $2.9 million Thursday toward the construction of a 26-acre transit center in Palmdale.

The Palmdale Transportation Center, scheduled to open in early 2004, will include a new Metrolink station as well as a transfer bay for local and commuter buses, officials said. The facility, to be located within two miles of Palmdale Airport, is expected to ease transit to and from the airfield when it resumes commercial service.

"The combination of air, auto, rail and bus coming together in one place is critical for the movement of people in this growing community," said Bill Budlong, executive director of Antelope Valley Transit Authority.

The Antelope Valley's population of about 300,000 will more than double in the next 25 years, according to projections by the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

Palmdale, which has more than 100,000 residents, has not had a Metrolink station since a temporary stop -- opened in the wake of the 1994 Northridge earthquake -- shut down several years ago. The nearest stations are in Lancaster and Acton, both several miles away.

Palmdale Airport has not had any commercial flights since United Express discontinued its service there in April 1998, citing a lack of business. But city officials say they have been working with the airfield's owner, Los Angeles World Airports, to lure airlines back.

Future plans for the transit center will include a fixed-guideway tram to the airport, said Leon Swain, deputy director of public works for Palmdale. The Metrolink stop, along a rail line that runs to Santa Clarita as well as the San Fernando Valley, will also help draw passengers from those regions, he added.

Plans for the center include bicycle trails and 500 parking spaces, which city officials anticipate may not be enough. Officials say they are working on obtaining funding for more parking in the future.

Hasan Ikhrata, director of planning and policy for the association, said the new transit center will help reduce overall congestion in the region by making public transportation more attractive, while promoting commercial development in the area.

The center's total cost will be $7.95 million. About $5.5 million, including the grant that the commission approved Thursday, will be provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Other funding will come from Palmdale and the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.

Residents in the Antelope Valley say such a transit hub is long overdue.

Nightmarish commuting "is the price one pays for living in that area," said Lloyd Brown, chairman of the commuter advisory committee for the Antelope Valley authority.

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