The California Transportation Commission voted Wednesday to spend $153 million to begin construction of a freight rail corridor to speed cargo from East Los Angeles to Pomona.
The 35-mile Alameda Corridor East project is an extension of the Alameda Corridor, the 20-mile, high-speed rail line from the burgeoning ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles.
Alameda Corridor East will cost $912 million and is designed to help expedite freight service from downtown Los Angeles to the Inland Empire and beyond.
The balance of the money for the project is expected to come from federal and local sources. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2007.
Under the first phase of the Alameda Corridor East project, crews will alter 11 intersections to allow traffic to travel either below or over the rail lines to ease traffic flow.
"It will free up many of the crossings where many of the freight trains are tying up cross traffic," said Rick Richmond, the chief executive officer of the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority.
Richmond said that both Alameda Corridor projects are critical to transportation in the region because the two ports are expected to increase cargo traffic by 175% over the next two decades. Already, the two ports generate 25,000 truck trips per day, worsening congestion on freeways from Long Beach to the San Gabriel Valley.
By moving street traffic under or over the rail lines, officials at the Alameda Corridor East project predict that they will eliminate nearly 13,000 hours of traffic delays.
Regional transportation officials hope to eventually extend the Alameda rail corridor through San Bernardino County and into Orange County.
The California Transportation Commission approved the funding during a rare meeting in Los Angeles.
The only controversy came when a Southern California Gas Co. spokeswoman suggested that the commission help pay the company's cost of relocating gas lines to make way for the project.
Spokeswoman Helen Romero Shaw said the gas company will have to spend about $12.5 million to relocate the gas lines along the corridor in the San Gabriel Valley. Unless the state or the railroad companies agree to share that cost, she said, the gas company will pass it on to ratepayers.
Richmond told the commission that he believes that the gas company is obligated under franchise agreements with cities to pay all relocation costs required by public improvement projects.
The commissioners declined to act on the gas company's request, but said they will look into the matter further.
One commissioner suggested that Shaw press the railroad companies to help pay for the relocation costs.