Washington Alternative GOld Line Extension

The proposed extension of the Gold Line between East L.A and Whittier would run for about 9 miles and include 7 stations.

East Los Angeles --  The Gold Line that now terminates in East Los Angeles would be extended to Whittier instead of South El Monte under the most recent Metro staff recommendations.

The Metro board of directors is scheduled to review and vote upon the recommendations this week to build what's known as the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2.

Metro has spent about a decade studying and seeking public comment on a trio alternatives for what is considered one of its four "pillar projects" that could be fast-tracked. The agency has budgeted about $3 billion for the first phase of the project.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who represents East Los Angeles and sits on the Metro board, spoke positively about what's called the Washington Alternative during a Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum luncheon last week.

"I believe this going to be a game changer, economically as well as for disadvantaged communities that have really been waiting a long, long time for that line to be extended," said Solis.

The latest recommendations that will be voted by the board include dropping two of the three proposed routes from consideration. All or portions of those routes to be eliminated would run east from the Atlantic Gold Line Station in East L.A. along the 60 Freeway to South El Monte.

That nearly 7-mile route with four stations faced some serious engineering and financial challenges, including finding a way around a Superfund cleanup site; a planned widening of the freeway and environmentally sensitive areas near the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers. 

"These challenges would require unconventional permitting processes and extensive agency coordination, taking a considerable amount of time, potentially adding several years of delay to the Project schedule," said the staff report.

Instead, staff said that efforts should focus on extending the rail line nine miles to the city of Whittier on a route that would run south on Atlantic Boulevard and then east on Washington Boulevard. Portions of the route would run underground, on elevated tracks and in the middle of the roadway.

The seven stations along the Atlantic and Washington boulevard would be easier to reach on foot, bike and bus and also create more opportunity for real estate development next to rail station, said the staff report.

"In general, the Washington Alternative stations are situated in areas with a higher presence of residential land uses, serving more economically disadvantaged communities who would benefit from improved transit access," said the report.

While the report calls for dropping the route to South El Monte from consideration, it does recommend studying other mass transit options for the area as part of a second phase of the project.

Even if Metro's board approves focusing only on the Washington alternative, it probably won't be until the end of the decade before construction even begins.

Metro's board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Update: Metro board voted in favor of the Atlantic-Washington route. Supervisor Solis also introduced a motion instructing staff to begin work on a new transit project to serve communities along the 60 Freeway.

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