The chairwoman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority has issued a statement backing the Washington Boulevard Route for the planned extension of the East Site Gold Line light rail transit.
"The Washington Boulevard alignment has the highest projected ridership among all of the alternatives being studied, extends light rail the farthest east into the county where more people live and work, and is expected to cost less per mile than the alternative," said Diane DuBois, Metro chairwoman and Lakewood City Council member in a new release issued by a coalition of cities, businesses and officials backing the Washington Boulevard route.
“In every measurement, the Washington Boulevard alignment appears to be the superior choice,” said DuBois.
The news release also announced the formation of the coalition, which had been a loose affiliation previously, according to Jeff Collier, Whittier city manager.
“Folks are stepping up now to make their voices heard,” said Collier, noting that city council members are now actively speaking out on the issue.
The cities of Whittier, Pico Rivera, Commerce and Santa Fe Springs, along with major employers such as PIH Health and other businesses announced Wednesday that they have joined to form the Washington Blvd. Light Rail Transit Coalition to pressure Metro to choose the Washington Boulevard route for the extension.
Metro is expected to release a draft of the Environmental Impact Report on the two potential routes for the project early in 2014.
The Washington Boulevard route is up against the 60 Freeway route backed by cities such as Montebello and South El Monte.
Metro's vote on the proposed route is expected some time later in 2014.
The Washington Boulevard route would extend the Gold Line from its current terminus at the Atlantic Station east to Garfield Avenue, south to Washington Boulevard and then east to a stop at PIH Health.
“As the largest employer in the region, extending the Gold Line to our front door would not only increase access to health care but also provide much-needed public transportation for those who work in our medical center facility,” said Jim West, president and CEO of PIH Health.
The 60 Freeway route would take the Gold Line along the 60 Freeway, between Monterey Park and Montebello, through South San Gabriel, Rosemead and South El Monte ending at the Peck Road.
The 60 Freeway route is backed by coalition formed in 2010 by the cities of El Monte, Industry, Monterey Park, Montebello, Rosemead and South El Monte. South El Monte City Councilman Joe Gonzales said they’ve spent $70,000 on consultants.
“Our studies show we will be transporting people who use transportation services,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Our line will give transportation to people who are dependent on transportation services.”
In addition to the six cities, he said many transportation agencies support the 60 Freeway route, which has lower construction costs and will connect with El Monte’s bus center and transportation hubs in South El Monte. It also is less invasive and doesn’t split Montebello in two along Garfield.
“Montebello supports the 60 line because they don’t want (light rail) running down a major thoroughfare right next to their golf course.”
He dismissed DuBois’ statement saying she is from the south route region and a Gateway City member. Gateway Cities, a coalition of 27 cities and numerous unincorporated areas, endorsed the Washington Boulevard route in 2010.
When it’s time to vote, she’ll have to decide if she wants to split a city, Gonzales said.
The 60 Freeway route cities have been working doing their groundwork since 2010, he said.
“The city of Whittier is just beginning,” said Gonzales.
The Whittier City Council in October agreed to spend $90,000 to hire a lobbyist.
Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo V. Camacho said the east side of the county needs transportation that can take people from their homes to where they work.
“Because this alignment is envisioned to run right through the heart of the county’s industrial center, along Washington Boulevard, we see this route as the best way to shorten the distance from people’s door steps to the front door of their work,” he said in the coalition’s news release.
According to the coalition, because the 60 Freeway route is mainly along a highway, passengers would likely get to the rail stops by the freeway rather than from adjacent neighborhoods.
Santa Fe Springs Mayor Richard Moore said the Washington Boulevard route won’t require a freeway drive to get on the Gold Line.
“The Washington Boulevard alignment will be located right within our neighborhoods, convenient to where our residents live and work,” he said.
The Washington Boulevard route would serve 3,200 more daily riders than the 60 Freeway route, according to the coalition. It would provide direct access to more jobs, serve daily commuters traveling east and west at peak and nonpeak hours and provide more direct access to senior citizens and low-income residents, who are most transit dependent.
“It is critical Metro build transit where is will be most needed and best used,” said county Supervisor and Metro board member Don Knabe. “In my view, putting this line right next to a freeway does not make sense, especially when there is an opportunity to build it in the community and get more riders to use the line.”