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Area officials seek support for Eco-Rapid Line

PARAMOUNT — State Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, hosted a group of legislators at a briefing here Feb. 19 to boost support for the planned Eco-Rapid commuter rail line to run a train through Southeast Los Angeles County to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

“Together we can make it happen, but we will need your help,” Mendoza told other elected officials at the Eco Rapid headquarters here. He pledged to do all he could to gain state support and funding for the plan for a commuter rail line through the area by 2023.

“We will keep on moving ahead. We need to do our part to educate the voters,” said South Gate Councilwoman Maria Davila, current chairman of the Eco-Rapid Board, composed of representatives from the 12 member cities.

Mendoza and Davila said the meeting was a call to action to make a predevelopment plan and push for transportation funding on the November ballot.

“I want to thank Senator Tony Mendoza for spearheading the Eco-Rapid Transit briefing and bus tour,” Davila said. “With his support, we were able to bring together the largest and most influential gathering ever of local and statewide officials to support the project.”

“I look forward to working with all our partners to fully fund and build a modern 21st century transportation system that will benefit the Gateway Cities’ residents for generations,” said Michael R. Kodama, executive director of the agency.

“I am pleased with the tremendous support shown from statewide and regionalleaders for this project,” Mendoza said. “We must ensure that the Gateway Cities receive their fair share of funding to complete the Eco-Rapid Transit light-rail line. The project will transform our region and provide much-needed transportation options for the Gateway Cities’ residents.”

Gateway Cities Council of Governments, a group of 30 Southeast Los Angeles County cities, is also based at the Paramount site.

Lakewood City Councilwoman Diane DuBois, also a director of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, introduced the plan for what is called the West Santa Ana Branch Transit corridor, to run along abandoned Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Artesia north through several southeast cities before going north along the west side of the Los Angeles River to Union Station.

A specific corridor for the latter section is undetermined.

A northern branch, planned later, would extend to the Bob Hope Airport, operated by the cities of Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank. That branch is planned to go north to blend into the Antelope Valley line and a possible merger with the high speed rail line state officials hope to construct, Davila said.

Downey City Councilman Luis Marquez, the former chair of the Eco-Rapid group, discussed why transportation improvements are important to the area and its economy.

Stations along the proposed West Santa Ana route are planned in Artesia, Bellflower, Paramount, Downey, South Gate and at the junction of Bell, Cudahy and Huntington Park at Florence and Salt Lake avenues, then to the Pacific Boulevard and Randolph Street area in Huntington Park.

Economic development is expected around all the stations.

It will be great for the northern cities, said Frank Quintero, president of the Burbank Glendale Pasadena Airport Authority. People who live in the southern area but work in the north will have a convenient ride to work.

Information distributed at the session estimated ridership of 70,000 a day by 2040 along the 20-mile southern corridor at a cost of between $4 billion and  $4.6 billion, creation of 59,000 “living wage jobs” during construction and generating $6.68 billion in economic growth over a 15- to 20-year period.

Established in 2003 by local officials, the rail line received a $240 million grant from voter-approved Measure R in 2008, gained support from the Southern California Association of Governments, a regional planning group based in Los Angeles and covering six Southern California counties; and supported in a technical study completed by the MTA in 2015.