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Moving Metrolink forward toward more reliable, frequent service

Across Los Angeles, commuters will spend an extra 44 minutes of travel time stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day. That adds up to 170 hours a year. It's not sustainable for the average family, and it's not sustainable for our region. No one wants to sit mired in traffic on a freeway for hours every week. Californians want safe and reliable alternatives to the traditional commute, and as policy makers, it's our job to come up with solutions that reduce congestion and individual travel time as well as cut down on choking emissions.

We've taken some big steps to invest in expanding transit options with the passage of SB 1 and new allocations from our Cap and Trade revenues, and we're starting to see those funds funneled to local projects that have the potential to move millions. Our own Metrolink secured an $875-million award, the largest single grant in Metrolink's history, that will transform passenger rail service across our region. I'm a proud supporter of Metrolink, and I've been advocating in support of this project and the grant funding for months because I believe it will deliver real benefits to thousands of commuters in the 43rd Assembly District and across our region.

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The grant award will go toward the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion (SCORE) plan developed by Metrolink in partnership with freight and intercity rail operators. The plan will serve as a road map to increased rail service that can accommodate expected population and job growth in advance of 2028, when Los Angeles will host the Olympics. Nearly half of the $875 million will be used to extend run-through tracks at Los Angeles Union Station south across the 101 Freeway so trains don't have to enter and exit from the north. It might seem like a simple logistical fix, but if you've ever spent time commuting through the station, you know this change could save up to 20 minutes in travel time for riders.

The balance of the grant funds will be used for significant investments in infrastructure such as adding track, signals and additional station platforms so Metrolink can provide more reliable, frequent service throughout Southern California. These funds will help provide at least 30-minute service in both directions on key Metrolink corridors that serve Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Additionally, improvements at crossings will be funded to help ensure cities can implement Quiet Zones to reduce noise associated with the routine blowing of train horns.

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Earlier this year I hosted a town hall at the Glendale Train Station where a panel of transportation planners and leaders from across Southern California discussed the needs of our region and the challenges communities are facing. One of the issues that everyone agreed on was the need for less reliance on single-occupancy vehicles. We also heard a clear and consistent call for better transit service along the Los Angeles River that can connect Glendale, Burbank and downtown Los Angeles. This grant will help us achieve exactly that. We will see increased and improved service along Metrolink's key corridors without the need to build new rail lines and the disruption such work can cause for neighborhoods along the route.

This investment in regional rail is long overdue, but it's better late than never. California is now the fifth largest economy in the world — we need a modern transit system that can keep pace with a growing population and the expectations and demands of a changing workforce.

LAURA FRIEDMAN (D-Glendale) represents La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, Glendale, Burbank and neighboring communities in the the 43rd Assembly District.

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