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EARTHQUAKE: THE LONG ROAD BACK : Metrolink Station to Open South of Palmdale : Transportation: The new facility will launch a series of projects designed to link the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys to the West Valley.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new Metrolink station set to open today south of Palmdale is the first in a series of train and bus improvements in the works for the coming months--including an ambitious plan to link the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys to the west San Fernando Valley.

New routes and stations planned for the upgrade are part of an unprecedented effort to create a new transportation system for the region, to replace the travel capacity lost when freeway bridges and overpasses collapsed in the quake.

The station scheduled to open today--the Vincent Grade/Acton station south of Palmdale--is little more than a large parking lot with two long boarding platforms. But officials say that because it is closer to Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas than the Lancaster or Palmdale stations that opened a week ago, it will save commuting time for south Antelope Valley residents.

Other upgrades are expected in the next several weeks:

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* Next Monday, two new train stations are scheduled to be opened--one in Canyon Country on Via Princessa, the other in Northridge at Parthenia Street and Wilbur Avenue. Officials also plan to add a third train each weekday to the Antelope Valley.

* On Feb. 14 or Feb. 21, Metrolink officials hope to open another new station in Camarillo, extending the current Ventura County train line by about 13 miles from its current end point in Moorpark. Ventura County transportation officials are due to consider the proposal this week.

* By the end of February, said Metrolink Executive Director Richard Stanger, the agency hopes to have developed a train connection to allow passengers to transfer from north county lines to trains heading for the west San Fernando Valley. North county commuters could take Metrolink south to the Burbank station, then transfer to the westbound Ventura line with stops at Van Nuys, Northridge and Chatsworth. Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus service from the current Metrolink stations in Glendale, Burbank and Sylmar is also being improved, Stanger said.

To facilitate the Metrolink expansion, Metrolink Chief Engineer John Rinard said the agency plans a variety of improvements, including $10 million worth of new track between Lancaster and Palmdale. In the end, Rinard said, officials expect to cut the current 2-hour-25-minute train trip between Lancaster and Los Angeles to about two hours within several months.

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Rinard said most of the planned upgrades are being paid for with county transit funds. He said the agency expects that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the costs as part of aid payments stemming from the destructive 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck Southern California two weeks ago.

Rinard, who visited the Vincent Grade/Acton station Sunday, said Metrolink has initially committed to serving the Antelope Valley for one year. “But if they ride the trains, the service will stay,” he said. “What we need is ridership.”

The new station is located on a five-acre site on Sierra Highway south of Angeles Forest Highway. It ultimately will accommodate 1,000 cars, Rinard said, although initially there is paved parking for about 300 and dirt lot parking for about 500. The station cost about $300,000 to build.

Rinard said Metrolink will use the site on a month-to-month lease at a cost of about $3,000 a month. The two morning trains from the Antelope Valley will stop there at 4:36 a.m. and 5:17 a.m. The return trains from Los Angeles in the afternoon will stop there at 6:02 p.m. and 7:31 p.m.

Rinard said the new station, besides being more convenient for south Antelope Valley residents, should also relieve some of the crowding at the current Palmdale station. Likewise, officials expect the Canyon Country station due next week to relieve crowding at the Santa Clarita station.

In other developments Sunday, Caltrans officials said rebuilding began on the collapsed Gavin Canyon bridge on the Golden State Freeway near Santa Clarita.


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