Last of Post-Quake Metrolink Stations Opening in Oxnard : Transportation: New stop comes 10 weeks after FEMA funding enabled extension of rail service. Fete planned before first departure today.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Metrolink service rolls into Oxnard today, 10 weeks after earthquake-crumbled freeways prompted a federal agency to free up funds for commuter trains to run until October.

Oxnard is the last of seven Metrolink stops added to the 250-mile rail service to help ease highway congestion as suburban commuters make their way around damaged freeways and into Los Angeles.

A 5:15 a.m. celebration with free coffee, doughnuts and newspapers will mark the opening of the new stop, said Mary Travis, spokeswoman for the Ventura County Transportation Commission.

City and county officials are expected to be on hand, along with the Oxnard High School band and the Oxnard Strawberry Festival's mascot in a Fruit of the Loom-style berry costume.

"This is a real accomplishment for us," Travis said. "A lot of people worked very hard to make this happen, so we wanted to have a little celebration."

Transit officials said other temporary stations have boosted overall ridership, indicating that residents are willing to make the extra effort take the train rather than drive to work.

Daily ridership from the temporary station that was added in Camarillo in mid-February has remained steady, at about 120 passengers each way. Ridership throughout the system has doubled to 18,500 since the Jan. 17 quake.

Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover most of the $1.2-million cost of running the temporary Oxnard and Camarillo stops until October, or until the Simi Valley Freeway is repaired, whichever comes first.

For the Oxnard service, Metrolink is planning to run two round-trip trains a day from the Oxnard Transportation Center on 4th Street Mondays through Fridays. Trains will originate in Oxnard, with stops in Camarillo, Moorpark and Simi Valley before continuing on to the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles.

The trains will be stored in a temporary layover facility behind a citrus packing plant in Montalvo, about 1 1/2 miles from the Oxnard station. The commission agreed to spend $215,000 to build the temporary storage terminal, which will not be reimbursed with federal aid.

Addition of the Oxnard stop marks a triumph for local officials in their struggle to get emergency Metrolink service extended into western Ventura County.

"It is truly gratifying to see that this is finally happening," said Supervisor John K. Flynn, whose district includes Oxnard. "Now the big task is to make sure people ride the train."

Flynn said he was seeing to it that the arrival of Metrolink in Oxnard is well-advertised.

Flyers were sent out and notices posted around town, Flynn said. And he helped arrange for a message airplane to fly overhead informing residents of the new service.

"We'll let people know, one way or another," Flynn said.

Oxnard Metrolink Service

Where: Oxnard Transit Center, 200 E. 4th St., near Oxnard Boulevard.

When: Mondays through Fridays.

Times: Trains depart at 5:31 and 6:21 a.m. and return at 6:00 and 7:14 p.m., making nine stops between Oxnard and Los Angeles Union Station. The trip takes about 1 1/2 hours each way.

Parking: 300 free spaces.

Access: Trains are wheelchair-accessible.

Cost: A round-trip ticket to Burbank costs $12 and to Los Angeles $14. A monthly pass to Burbank is $176 and $208 to Los Angeles.

Information: (800) 438-1112 or (800) 371-LINK.

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