Herald American The Press

Proposed rail line threatens Bellflower walking path

BELLFLOWER — County transportation officials are discussing a northern corridor from Vernon to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles for the proposed 20-mile, $5.6-billion light rail commuter train through Southeast Los Angeles County.

But those reports in recent meetings in Huntington Park, Downey and Bellflower have not touched on a key issue for the southern corridor — how the train would affect the Bellflower-Paramount Walking Path.

“We have polled about 700 residents and 90 percent want some type of grade separation,” former Bellflower Mayor Scott Larsen said.

He was referring to the planned commuter rail corridor through Bellflower and Paramount over the landscaped pedestrian route, which is built on abandoned Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way and is owned by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Several years ago, the MTA gave permission to use its right-of-way for a pedestrian and bike trail with the stipulation that it can be returned to transit use if needed.

Bellflower and Paramount have called for the rail line, called the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor, to be elevated over the trail, which might cost more but be safer crossing busy streets.

Speaking before the Bellflower City Council May 14, Larsen brought up the question during a presentation on the Eco-Rapid Line.

Michael Kodama, executive director of the Eco-Rapid Transit Authority, said his agency will consider a “cut and cover” system which would put the rail line underground. That will be discussed this summer, he told a reporter.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn made a brief appearance at the Bellflower session to support the overall project and said she looked forward to its completion, estimated in 2028.

Concerning the northern corridor, Hahn said she preferred a route that would go directly to Union Station. Several routes are under consideration along the Alameda Avenue and Los Angeles River corridors, both at grade and underground.

A surface level route and an elevated one have both been opposed by residents and business owners there. An underground plan is being considered, Kodama said.

The southern route follows the Union Pacific right-of-way northwest through Artesia, Cerritos, Bellflower and Paramount, then north to Downey and South Gate, then northwest past Cudahy, Bell and Maywood into Huntington Park, then north on Salt Lake Road to Randolph Street, west on existing tracks to Pacific Boulevard and north into Vernon to Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Kodama said an environmental impact report should be ready for public view in 2020 with work to start in 2021.

The Eco-Rapid board is composed of representatives of the cities through which the route is planned, including Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. A member north of Los Angeles is the Burbank-Pasadena-Glendale Airport Authority.