ANTELOPE VALLEY : Work on Track to Speed Metrolink Commuting

Metrolink officials Monday gave a tour of earthquake-related improvements to the track on the Santa Clarita line. The changes are designed to cut 30% off commuting times between the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles by July 1.

Crews are straightening many of the 50 curves on the commuter rail line between the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, allowing the average traveling speed to increase by 35 to 45 m.p.h., said San Bernardino County Supervisor Larry Walker, who chairs the Metrolink board of directors. The 78-mile trip from Lancaster to Los Angeles, which took 2 hours and 25 minutes when the line opened Jan. 24, will take an hour and 48 minutes when work is completed.

"That's the same time as driving a car that distance during rush hour," Walker said.

The line between Santa Clarita and Lancaster did not exist before the Jan. 17 earthquake and was not scheduled for completion for at least 10 years. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided $50 million in emergency funds for the extension after the magnitude 6.8 temblor collapsed a connector ramp on the Antelope Valley Freeway, the only major highway route between the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles.

An existing rail line used for freight trains was converted to Metrolink use after the earthquake, but trains went more slowly than other Metrolink lines because of the numerous sharp curves, Walker said.

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