The Yorba Linda City Council voted unanimously late Tuesday to reject a proposal to build a Metrolink commuter train station, citing concerns that it would bring noise and traffic to the area.
The $7.75-million project, which was unpopular with nearby residents, would have included a Metrolink stop, passenger platforms, a bridge and parking lots on New River and Esperanza roads. Transportation officials have said the station is needed to help ease congestion on the Riverside Freeway.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 18, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Metrolink ridership -- An article in some editions of the California section on Wednesday about a proposed Metrolink station in Yorba Linda gave incorrect ridership figures for Metrolink's Inland Empire-Orange County line. About 74,000 passengers board the line each month, not 74,000 every weekday.
"My problem with this project was never with public transportation or Metrolink," said Councilman Allen Castellano. "My problem was location, parking and traffic."
On Tuesday, more than 300 Yorba Linda residents jammed a city hall that can accommodate less than half that number. The number of opponents far outstripped supporters, and the overflow crowd prompted officials to set up TV monitors outside so everyone could watch the proceedings.
Linda Verstuyft, one of only about a dozen station supporters at the meeting, said she has to drive about an hour to the Metrolink stop in Fullerton. A station in Yorba Linda, she said, would cut her commute by at least 30 minutes.
"People don't understand what we go through" in the daily commute, Verstuyft said. "If they spent a day in our lives, they might understand a little."
A large portion of the audience belonged to a group called Yorba Linda Residents Against the Metrolink Station.
The idea of building a station in the city has been around for years, but every time the subject comes up, opposition quickly surfaces.
On several occasions, the City Council has voted to table the issue.
When a report studying the station's environmental effects was released last fall and the topic was reintroduced in the city's Chamber of Commerce, residents became incensed.
"I said, 'Doggone it, how did this thing resurrect itself?' " said Vince Hambright, a member of the opposition group. "This has been the hottest issue this city has seen in a long time, if not in its history."
The organization launched an extensive website, complete with streaming videos, files of city documents and a ready-made poster for opponents of the station to distribute.
The group has two main objections to a Metrolink station: The proposed site is near a residential neighborhood, and is next to a grocery store and a school. They say increased traffic will add inconvenience and danger to an already congested area.
Commuters now make about 9,000 vehicle trips on New River and Esperanza roads every day, said Yorba Linda Public Works Director Jim Smith. He estimates a Metrolink station would add about 800 vehicle trips each day.
Opponents also said freight trains would sound their horns as they approached the station.
Debbie Banks, who lives several blocks from the proposed site, said the horns would be too much for her quiet neighborhood.
"People can't believe it could even be considered," she said. "When you have something that's so obviously wrong, it's easy to get a lot of people to oppose it."
Metrolink has been eyeing Yorba Linda as a gateway stop between Orange and Riverside counties since 1991. Maps on Metrolink's website designate Yorba Linda as a "future station."
"We think that the station would serve the city well," said Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin. "It would provide an extra amount of service, and would be in the interest of the community."
Gavin also said the Inland Empire-to-Orange County line, which runs from San Bernardino to San Juan Capistrano, is Metrolink's fastest-growing, serving about 74,000 passengers every weekday.
A station in Yorba Linda would add 250 passengers to Metrolink's daily service, said Ted Nguyen of the O.C. Transportation Authority.
"Yorba Linda is on our master plan for a future station," he said.
After Tuesday's council vote, which was applauded by the crowd, OCTA officials indicated that they would sit down with Metrolink to explore other options for a station.