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La Mirada Residents Claim Valley View Grade Separation Will Increase Train Noise

Residents form advocacy group in an attempt to get sound-wall built which was never put in the grade separation budget.

By Tony Aiello
La Mirada – The Valley View Grade Separation Project, now officially started, and in its early stages, has rekindled an issue as old as the city itself-train traffic and the noise associated with it; and a former school board member is heading up a new advocacy group to ensure resident’s interests are protected.
The Valley View project-a $65 million joint venture between Caltrans, BNSF Railway, and the cities of La Mirada and Santa Fe Springs will create a railroad bridge and underpass, allowing the Valley View Avenue traffic at Stage Road, to flow underneath the tracks, eliminating the need for a grade signal.
When the endeavor is completed, sometime in late 2014, barring any unexpected occurrences the trains will no longer have to sound their whistle at the intersection, bringing relief too many. More importantly, traffic congestion will be essentially eliminated at the intersection.
However, that’s not good enough for Nancy Jenkins and her dozens of neighbors in the Neff Park/Stage Road area of La Mirada who are concerned train traffic and the noise associated with it, that they experiencing now, will only increase in the future.
After a city-sponsored informational meeting about the Valley View project held on August 13th, many of the group felt disenfranchised.
“They made us feel like we weren’t allowed to speak,” said Jenkins, who said the group repeatedly asked about a sound wall and was told over and over again it is not in the city’s budget.
“It was understood that in no uncertain terms nobody wanted to address the problems of the sounds we live with 24/7,” said Jenkins, “This is nothing new for us. We have had issues with the noise around here for a very long time.
Group member Carlos Garcia concurred, “They seemed to get mad when we started asking questions.”
Jenkins wnet on to say a city-provided facilitator attempted to lead the group with feel-good chants, yes chants, leaving attendees with their jaws dropped. “It was just an inane thing,” she said.
Since then, Jenkins along with others, have oragnized an advocacy group. They have begun to gather signatures for a petition to present to the city, with the hopes in finding some support for a sound wall.
They currently have over 350 signatures and their goal is to get about 800, and then present the petition at the October 23rd City Council meeting. Most of the initial supporters live on San Ardo Drive which runs parallel with the train track, but now the effort has reached as far north as San Esteban Drive to the north and Figueras Road to the east.
Jenkins, a former Norwalk-La Mirada School Board member, who last served in that capacity in 1987, is the informal leader of the group.
She and the others want to make it perfectly clear, their main concern is the new third mainline track slated to be laid down soon.
The group realizes when the Valley View project is complete there will no longer be a need for train whistle, and that will be eliminated, however, that is not the noise they are concerned about.
“We understand they have decided to run Valley View under the train tracks and we have to live with that,” said Jenkins, “But, we are concerned about the constant rumbling of trains, which has nothing to do with the Valley View intersection. It is the overall noise of freight after freight that will come with this triple track the State approved.”
Jenkins is referring to the fact that the Valley View grade separation is actually part of a $163 million track expansion known as the Triple Track Project. Soon, a third mainline track will be laid next the existing two, for a 15-mile stretch, from the City of Commerce to the City of Fullerton. The Pico Rivera segment has already begun.
Officials say the primary objective of the third track is to improve intercity freight and passenger rail efficiency, service, and safety by reducing conflicts between vehicles, pedestrians and trains.
BNSF rail traffic has increased over the years, and will continue to increase. Combined, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are currently handling about 10% more cargo containers than a year ago-much of it attributed to a strong growth in imports.
Additionally, BNSF shares the main Los Angeles to San Diego lines-the ones that run through La Mirada-with Amtrak and Metrolink commuter services as well.
To the La Mirada group this means more noise and more trains, and they would like a sound wall installed along Stage Road, from approximately Castellon Road to the Figueras Road/La Mirada Creek area where the railroad begins its descent under Alondra Boulevard.
This issue is nothing new for the area. Many groups regarding this issue have formed over the years and then dissipate.
A sound wall is currently not a part of the Valley View project mainly because it is considered an aesthetic improvement by Caltrans for which they will not pay for, said La Mirada City Manager Tom Robinson.
The issue has put the city in an awkward position, “The original developer did not provide a sound wall, and neither did the railroad, so it falls on the city”, said Robinson.
Robinson indicated this is probably not the best time to consider new projects, with the city currently suffering financial strife, including recently approving placing a tax measure on a La Mirada ballot for the first time in the city’s history, for this November.
But, he said, the city would be more than happy to open formal discussions with the group about a sound wall.
La Mirada Public Works Director told the La Mirada Lamplighter a third mainline track might actually mean less railway traffic, or at least more evenly spaced out, “It’s like opening an additional lane of a freeway,” he said.
The La Mirada Lamplighter unearthed a Draft EIR about the Triple Track Project and its sub-projects from the State California Department of Transportation that was dated April 13, 2003 for the public’s approval. Records show a public meeting for public comment was scheduled to take place at the La Mirada Activity Center on May 7, 2003 regarding the Triple Track Project. We have been unable to get further information, at this time, including if that meeting took place, or information about a Final EIR, which was supposed to be issued after the public comment periods.
To obtain more information about the train sound wall advocacy group you may call (714) 521-1539.
Trains have always been associated with La Mirada, with the tracks being laid long before city incorporation, and actually helped put the city on the maps. A train station and processing/packing plant was built in the early 1900’s necessitated by La Mirada founder Andrew McNally’s expansive, olive and citrus groves, with crops being delivered all around the country via rail.
At the time, La Mirada olive oil was considered some of the finest in the world. The old La Mirada train station was demolished, controversially, in 1960.
Today, the site serves as a city storage yard, but there is a plaque along Stage Road and the large Canary Island Palm trees that adorned the station still remain at the site, and at adjacent Neff Park, today.

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