The Irvine City Council has voted to take the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to court to force a full environmental review of the transit agency’s plan to build a maintenance yard for its commuter trains near homes adjacent to the Great Park.
The OCTA project would create a 90,000-square-foot facility at the 21.3-acre site, which straddles an existing rail spur across from the Travata seniors housing tract.
Plans call for a transportation building; employee parking area; train-wash building; pump house; utility building; guard booth; equipment booth; sand silos; a maintenance facility and facility extension; and 11 tracks to service OCTA’s Metrolink trains.
The work at the rail yard — which would occur at night — includes testing the trains’ brakes and emergency brakes; horns and gongs; and public address and intercom systems.
Residents of Travata have mobilized in recent months to fight the train maintenance yard that would be as little as 500 feet from their homes. The proposed yard is also very near Cypress Village.
The residents’ objections center primarily on the noise associated with the work; air pollution from the trains’ diesel engines; bright lights illuminating the night work; and the storage of hazardous chemicals close to a residential area.
Earlier this year, the OCTA drafted what’s called a “negative declaration,” which basically says the project will have no significant environmental effects. This means there’s no need for a full environmental impact report (EIR), which would take many months and potentially expose severe environmental problems with the plan.
In June, Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi sent OCTA a letter sharply critical of the negative declaration, calling it “legally deficient and factually incorrect in numerous respects.” Chi reminded OCTA that the project will require City approval, and all but demanded an EIR.
Nevertheless, the OCTA recently approved the negative declaration, prompting the Irvine City Council at its November 14th Council meeting to vote unanimously to file a court challenge.
“Clearly this rail maintenance yard will have significant adverse environmental impacts that need to be studied,” said Councilmember Larry Agran. He called the OCTA’s negative declaration “absurd” and added: “It’s an outdoor rail yard that will negatively impact our City in terms of light pollution; air pollution; and noise pollution. The City has no other choice but to file suit so that these adverse impacts are thoroughly disclosed before we give any further consideration to the project.”
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