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Anaheim Transit Center Is a Step Closer to Reality

Tentative land deal is set for bus and rail hub that has been in planning stages for 15 years.

August 06, 2006|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Anaheim's vision of one of the largest transit centers in Southern California -- between Angel Stadium and the Arrowhead Pond and 15 years in the planning -- is coming into focus.

Last week, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, county supervisors and the Orange County Transportation Authority tentatively reached an agreement to buy 13 1/2 acres from the county for $32.5 million.

"We needed the land first, and we're going to get it," Pringle said, referring to confidential negotiations for the coveted land. Both boards are expected to approve the deal this month.

Plans call for the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center to include the county's largest bus terminal, a parking structure, platforms for Amtrak and Metrolink trains and room to add tracks for high-speed rail.

The project would also have commercial and retail space the city hopes will entice private developers to build the station.

As envisioned, shuttles would connect the station to Anaheim's resort district and convention center, entertainment venues, local hospitals and other major employers.

City officials say the transportation center will help the city's Platinum Triangle become Orange County's urban hub.

The Platinum Triangle is 807 acres east of Disneyland wedged between the Santa Ana Freeway and the Santa Ana River. City officials envision a residential and entertainment center with more than 9,000 homes and 7 million square feet of offices and stores, including 11 high rises.

The first project, the 400-unit Stadium Lofts condominiums, is expected to open in two months.

Preliminary drawings show the transit center parking structure encroaching on land owned by JT Schmid's Restaurant & Brewery, a popular hangout across from the Pond. With the transit center and professional football and basketball franchises being talked about for Anaheim, owner Jason Schmid has a lot at stake.

"We're basically on the corner of Main Street and Main Street," he said. "And we're the window to the transit center."

Pringle is looking to private investors who would foot the station's cost -- estimated two years ago at $145 million -- or to develop the adjacent retail and commercial space.

"We can't wait around for federal dollars from Washington because that money may not come," Pringle said. "The city has talked about this for 15 years. This action is a dream turning into reality."

With an estimated 20.6 million visitors to Anaheim spending $4.7 billion in Orange County last year, finding a private developer won't be difficult, said Lucy Dunn, chief executive for the Orange County Business Council.

"If there's a market and they see that there's a need, the business community will step up," Dunn said. "A market-driven solution makes sense."

Preliminary plans call for a 20,000-square-foot Metrolink station, 1,000 parking spaces, a pedestrian underpass and pedestrian plaza. The second phase will add 2,000 additional parking spaces, a high-speed rail station and a pedestrian bridge linking the station to the Pond.

The city has won a spot on the proposed route of the California High Speed Rail system between San Diego and Sacramento, but money to build the system has hit a snag. Lawmakers in June removed from the ballot a $10-billion bond proposal for high-speed rail construction. The proposal is now slated for the 2008 election.

Pringle also is on a commission of California and Nevada officials studying a 270-mile high-speed train linking Las Vegas and Ontario International Airport. Pringle is pushing to extend the route to Anaheim. The so-called Maglev train could ferry passengers at more than 250 mph from Anaheim to Ontario in 15 minutes.

But Anaheim's transportation center is needed regardless of whether projects such as Maglev get built, experts say.

"It's a way to pursue a risky project like Maglev or California high-speed rail ... by building infrastructure investments that are also sensible for much less risky projects like increasing Metrolink ridership," said Marlon Boarnet, chairman of UC Irvine's department of planning, policy and design.

Anaheim's plans also fit into the region's transportation needs, said Art Leahy, the OCTA's chief executive. With LAX congested and a cap on growth at John Wayne Airport, flights at Ontario International Airport are expected to increase as the region continues to grow, he said.

"We buy this land and we preserve the future use," Leahy said. "We're preserving room for the extension up to Ontario airport. If [Maglev] doesn't happen, we change direction. But once we lose the opportunity, we can never get back there."

Staff writer David McKibben contributed to this report.

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