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L.A. Metro Board Approves Next Steps to Extend Eastside Gold Line

Yesterday, the Metro Board of Directors approved contracts for environmental studies and engineering to extend the Eastside Gold Line light rail.

The Eastside Gold Line has two chunks of funding approved under Measure M. There is $3 billion for an initial extension programmed to break ground in 2029 and open in 2035. Then there is a second $3B scheduled to break ground in 2053 and open in 2057. The project has been approved for potential acceleration in Metro's 28 by 2028 initiative to complete infrastructure improvements in advance of the 2028 Olympics. Per Metro's staff report, only one of the two planned alignments would be accelerated.

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Metro's map showing the two planned Eastside Gold Line extensions
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The current Eastside Gold Line terminates at Atlantic Station on Atlantic Boulevard at Third Street in unincorporated East L.A. There are two alignments for extending the line eastward.

    • The SR-60 alternative parallels the 60 Freeway through the cities of Montebello and Monterey Park to a terminus in South El Monte. For the most part, the train would run on an aerial structure immediately south of the freeway. Rail stations along freeways tend to be problematic due to car noise and pollution; these sorts of alignments also tend to favor park-and-ride over more desirable transit-oriented development. This northern alignment is further complicated by having to avoid the toxic Operating Industries Inc. Landfill site, located immediately south of the freeway in Monterey Park. In order to avoid the landfill, Metro’s aerial train structures would cross over the freeway, then back again.
    • The Washington Boulevard alternative goes through unincorporated East L.A., the cities of Montebello, Commerce, Pico Rivera, and Santa Fe Springs to a terminus in Whittier. This alignment includes a nearly 3-mile tunnel below Atlantic Boulevard from 3rd Street to Washington, then rail along Washington mostly at grade, though with some aerial portions. This alignment serves relatively population-dense, low-income, predominantly Latino communities.

Prior to Measure M, it appeared as though Metro might only be able to build one of these two options. This meant jockeying between cities pushing for the alignment that served their populations. With the passage of Measure M, Metro committed to building both alignments and operating them via a central wye junction. The competition persists for which would proceed first.

Yesterday, the Metro Board approved $7.8 million for completing environmental studies, plus $16.2 million for advanced conceptual engineering and urban design.

Metro had approved completed environmental studies (EIS/EIR - Environmental Impact Study/Environmental Impact Report) in 2014. These included the two separate alternative alignments. In 2017, the board re-opened the environmental process to include a third option to combine both alternatives.

Metro's timetable for the Eastside Gold Line
Metro's timetable for the Eastside Gold Line
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According to Metro's timetable, the final EIS/EIR should be completed by 2021-2022. At that point, the project's engineering is expected to be 15 percent complete. A showdown over which of the two alignments would proceed first would likely be part of the Metro board approving the EIS/EIR then.

Project acceleration is not a done deal, especially with the current administration dragging its heels on federal transit funding and a repeal initiative underway to trim California transportation funds. If the California gas tax survives and the situation changes in Washington, then Metro may be able to scramble to accelerate building an initial extension.

SBLA San Gabriel Valley coverage is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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