A Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) on a proposed extension of the Gold Line light rail system from East Los Angeles to either South El Monte or Whittier was released Aug. 22 by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). A public comment period is open until 5 p.m. Oct.21.
The Draft EIR/EIS studied the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2, an extension of the existing Gold Line connecting Pasadena and East Los Angeles through Union Station to communities where commuting to work is expected to grow by 32 percent by 2035 and peak period travel times to increase 25 percent in the morning and 34 percent in the afternoon by 2035.
The Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 includes proposals known as the SR 60 Alternative and the Washington Boulevard Alternative. The SR 60 Alternative proposes a 6.9 miles extension of mostly elevated tracks running adjacent to the 60 freeway to South El Monte with four proposed new stations at Monterey Park, Montebello and South El Monte. The Washington Boulevard Alternative would extend the Gold Line 9.5 miles down Garfield Avenue, turning east on Washington Boulevard before ending in Whittier. The mostly at-grade alternative would include six proposed new stations serving Monterey Park, Montebello, Pico Rivera and Whittier. Each of the two options would begin at the Eastside Gold Line’s current terminus at Atlantic and Pomona boulevards in East Los Angeles.
Estimated ridership for the SR 60 Alternative is 16,700 boardings each weekday with a cost estimate of $1.271 billion to $1.296 billion, according to the draft study. Estimated ridership for the Washington Boulevard Alternative is 19,900 weekday boardings with an estimated cost of $1.425 billion to $1.661 billion.
In addition to the two rail proposals, the Draft EIR/EIS addresses a Transportation Systems Management alternative that identifies bus corridor improvements and the legally required no-build option.
An EIR is required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and an EIS fulfills requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The laws require government agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects. Information from public comments will be weighed before preparing the final environmental document.
Metro will conduct four public hearings during the 60 day public comment period, each to include a 30 minute open house when the public can view the Draft EIR/EIS, see project display and talk to staff.
Metro staff is scheduled to recommend a Locally Preferred Alternative to the Metro Board of Directors in November and members will decide how to proceed.
Metro studies indicate the area of the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 has a significant level of transit dependent persons, with 38 percent of the study area’s population under 18 or over 65 years of age and 16 percent of the households categorized as “low income.” Twelve percent of the households have no vehicles.
The expense of both alternatives is due, in part, to the long aerial sections required due to lack of space at ground level and/or narrow streets. The SR 60 Alternative would run almost entirely on aerial structures. The Washington Boulevard Alternative would use aerial structures along the 60 freeway, Garfield Avenue and parts of Washington.
Funding for a potential extension of the Eastside Gold Line was included in the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that was approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. Measure R is scheduled to provide $1.27 billion for the project. Metro often assembles funding from several local, state and federal sources to fully fund large transit projects.
Under Metro's long-range plan, the second phase of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 is not scheduled to be in operation until 2035. But Metro decided to move ahead with the draft study should funds be secured that would allow the agency to build it sooner.
One potential source of funds would be an expansion of federal funding for transit projects through Metro's America Fast Forward (AFF) initiative. Congress hasn't made a decision yet on whether to expand AFF. The Metro Board has also discussed the possibility of a countywide ballot measure in 2016 that could possibly supply money needed to accelerate this project and others.