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Los Angeles River Communities Engage Metrolink to Address Pollution Concerns

Photo by Grove Pashley
FoLAR logo-thumb-85x104-30891

Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 to protect and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through inclusive planning, education and wise stewardship. This weekly column will support our efforts toward a swimmable, fishable, boatable Los Angeles River.

A popular section of the Los Angeles River downstream from Griffith Park to the Figueroa-Riverside Bridge is nicknamed the Glendale Narrows. This soft-bottomed length of the river features sandbars that host willows, blue herons and carp. This segment of the adjacent L.A. River Bike path was recently designated a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service. This area also includes future sites of L.A. River ecosystem restoration projects that will encourage even more recreational use of the river. 

However, there is visible and invisible engine pollution and train noise plaguing the southern area, emanating from the Metrolink Central Maintenance Facility at 1555 San Fernando Road, adjacent to Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Local communities have banded together to engage Metrolink to solve these air and noise pollution problems, and the public is invited to participate.

Visible plumes of black and white smoke, plus commuter train horns and loud engines revving and idling, prompted Elysian Valley homeowners near the facility to question the well-being of the community. Further research revealed that the cumulative inhalation of fine and ultra-fine diesel particulate matter from these trains -- smaller than a human hair, too small for the eye to view -- is a great human health risk.

Local activists began communication with the office of Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, and a meeting was facilitated with Metrolink. Outreach efforts engaged Cypress Park and Glassell Park residents across the river. The newly-formed Northeast L.A. Residents for Clean Air Coalition reached out to various environmental groups for assistance, including Friends of the Los Angeles River, whose headquarters in the L.A. River Center and Gardens is directly across the street from the facility. Recently U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff offered his support as well.

John Fenton, former CEO of Metrolink from January meeting at LA River Center | Photo by Grove Pashley
John Fenton, former CEO of Metrolink from January meeting at LA River Center | Photo by Grove Pashley

Three largely-attended community meetings have taken place in the last year. Metrolink CEO, John Fenton, appeared personally at the January meeting, promising engine upgrades by 2014 and other mitigation options. Some procedural and scheduling changes have been made by Metrolink since the last meeting. 

However, Mr. Fenton resigned this past May. Interim leadership will represent Metrolink at the next public community meeting this Thursday, July 26 at 6PM at L.A. River Center & Gardens at 570 West Avenue 26, in Cypress Park. If you live or work in the area, or if you actively enjoy the L.A. River Bike Path between Fletcher Drive and Figueroa Bridge, you are encouraged to attend this meeting. A question and answer session will be facilitated. Free parking is available at the venue.

The coalition is requesting a collection of mitigation efforts from Metrolink. First, they want a health risk assessment focused on the facility to establish a pollution baseline, which will allow measurement of future cleanup success. Also requested are changes related to engine activity and service scheduling, expensive upgrades to tier zero engines, installation of new exhaust and noise capture hood technology, plus electrical outlets to power passenger cars during cleaning.

It is possible that money from the California High-Speed Rail project may be applied to electrify Metrolink rails in their newly announced "blended" track plan, but full details on this have not yet been defined. That might be a solution for local pollution reduction, but it may take time to design and install.

Public parks serving youth immediately adjacent to this facility include Cypress Park Recreation Center, Rio De Los Angeles State Park, Steelhead Park, Oros Park, Egret Park, and Raul Macias Futsal Court. There are many schools in the area, including Dorris Place Elementary, Aragon Avenue Elementary School, Nightingale Middle School, and Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies. Contractors work on-site at the facility as rail staff, security guards, and landscapers. The Los Angeles River Center and Gardens nearby houses many organizations, including multiple environmental non-profits. Families and seniors may move into planned development at the adjacent MTA Parcel C. Recreational users of the Los Angeles River include bicyclists and runners and soon perhaps kayakers.

Please come out to Thursday's meeting to take part in the process of cleaning, greening, and revitalizing the Los Angeles River for future generations.

Northeast L.A. Residents for Clean Air Coalition
Community Meeting

Thursday July 26, 2012 6:00pm
L.A. River Center
570 W. Avenue 26
Los Angeles, CA 90065

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