Alhambra: don’t let anger and resistance sideline us

Location

Fremont Elementary School

2001 Elm St.
Alhambra , CA 91801 United States

Just over a year ago my wife and I bought our first house in Alhambra.  It was a little closer to the 10 Freeway than we would have liked, but we loved the house so much we couldn’t turn it down. Despite the noise, pollution and traffic, we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We have every intention of staying here and raising our kids here — whether or not the California High-Speed Rail Authority succeeds in laying its tracks through Alhambra. I am, like many residents, very skeptical of this rail line, but I believe we should be careful not to let our anger and resistance preclude us from being part of the process.

Francisco Mora and his wife, Dolores, have lived in Alhambra since 1960If the High-Speed Rail Authority can get the money together (a big “if” at this point), then this rail line is going to get built, and it has to go somewhere. NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) attitudes will only get us so far in this struggle. How can we argue that the proposed route that had the rail line going along the 60 Freeway is somehow better? Are the residents of East LA, Monterey Park and Montebello less important than us?  Would they be affected any less? It’s not like we are opposing an oil refinery, a coal mine, or even another freeway. High-speed rail is generally acknowledged to be an environmentally friendly form of transportation and social good. If it is going to happen, let’s at least have it happen on our terms.  

Instead of putting tracks to the north and south of the freeway, let’s force them to put it in the middle and make sure no homes are displaced. The rail would just be another component of the corridor that already exists on the south end of our city. Why not push for a stop to be located in Alhambra, attracting more businesses and perhaps easing some of our commutes? Let’s face it: the 10 Freeway is already a monstrosity.  Those of us who live nearby experience its effects everyday. A high-speed rail line is surely not going to improve the situation there, but if we make ourselves part of the planning process, can we ensure that it does not worsen the already-deafening roar of the freeway?

Longtime Alhambra resident Tony Garcia addresses the Rail Authority directlyTogether, as a community, we have power, but we must use that power strategically. Why not find a way to put pressure on Union-Pacific? They are the only entity that seems to have the power to resolve this whole mess immediately by allowing the tracks to be built within their rail corridor. The information is out there, but it can be difficult to parse. Dan Bednarksi has done an exhaustive amount of research available on his blog. If a train is going to be built in our community, we should be able to play a key role in shaping the route, and it should be constructed in such a way that we can extract the maximum benefit from it. We need to be organized and informed to do this.

I share with my neighbors many of the same serious questions and concerns about the project.Not only because it will mar our beautiful neighborhood, but because at the expected cost (at least $40 billion, but some estimates are over $70 billion) it would need a huge amount of ridership to justify the expense and the discomfort it will cause California residents. The Rail Authority projects that some stations could see more than 10,000 travelers per day, but if the number ends up being closer to 10,000 per week, then all this turmoil will have been in vain. After all the failed and unprofitable rail projects in California, what evidence is there to make us think that this project will generate the kind of ridership they expect? If people living along the proposed route who will be forced to sacrifice so much end up seeing dozens of mostly empty rail lines passing by their windows every day, how far back will the movements for sustainable mass transit be set?

Alhambra City Manager Julio Fuentes looks on as members of the California HSRThose concerns notwithstanding, by categorically opposing all options involving Alhambra, we are taking ourselves out of the discussion, allowing the Rail Authority to proceed with whatever option is cheapest and most convenient for them. We need to keep ourselves informed to understand the ramifications of the various proposals – not only for ourselves, but for the transportation infrastructure of our entire region.  If we are only motivated to protect our own interests, then we lose the moral high ground in this battle, and we pit ourselves against everyone who supports the idea of high-speed rail. If we shut them out, then they will shut us out, and in a project of this scope and impact, we can’t afford to be shut out.

1 thought on “Alhambra: don’t let anger and resistance sideline us”

  1. I agree, we must always be constructive in our criticism of any route that would go through Alhambra. However, that does not mean we cannot strongly resist the project or oppose all possible routes through Alhambra. By remaining constructive, we can still categorically oppose all options and remain part of the discussion. In that way, the Rail Authority would leave itself open to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) suits if it left us out of the discussions/working groups or ignored our arguments.

    Unfortunately, there is little chance a station could or would be built in Alhambra. One cornerstone of high speed rail is that the stations are spaced far apart. Union Station is too close for anyone to consider placing a station here in Alhambra. From what I have read, El Monte is the closest the Rail Authority will consider for a station, and even then it could be too close.

    We also need Caltrans’ agreement not to expand the freeway if the trains were to run down the center of the freeway. Although the Metrolink right of way is a natural fit for the trains, it is only 20 feet wide. Based on the Rail Authority’s specifications, it needs a minimum of 50 feet on which it can build its elevated train platform. So any plan to go down the center of the freeway is likely to take two or more freeway lanes. It is not a stretch to expect Caltrans to expand the footprint of the freeway to make up for lost lanes. Moreover, the high speed trains are inter-regional in nature so they are unlikely to lessen local traffic patterns unless combined with a regional transit grid that would replace cars in the daily commute. Even creating a four track configuration to double the number of tracks used by Metrolink would not lessen local traffic without a better and more expansive network that convinced people to get out of their cars.

    I am also against the 60 route for most of the same reasons I oppose a route through Alhambra. In addition, I’m concerned on how the Rail Authority will deal with the trash and toxic waste dumps on either side of the 60 in Monterey Park and Montebello. The only route the trains should take through this area is along the Union Pacific right of way. The route along the Union Pacific would go through areas that have far fewer residences or sensitive uses such as schools or hospitals. It is mostly commercial and industrial.

    BTW: Thanks for the compliment and link. I will post more there soon.

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