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Residents of the Travata Senior Community Take on OCTA

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Residents of Travata — a beautiful senior housing community located at the northwest corner of the Great Park —have mobilized in recent months to fight a train maintenance yard. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is proposing to build a railroad maintenance yard less than 500 feet from their homes.

The OCTA project would create a 90,000-square-foot facility at the 21.3-acre site, which straddles an existing rail spur across Marine Way from Travata, immediately east of the Eastern Transportation Corridor (133). 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 yard — to be done at night — includes testing the trains’ brakes and emergency brakes, horns and gongs, and public address and intercom systems. The residents’ objections center primarily on the noise associated with the work, air pollution from the trains’ diesel engines, and the storage of hazardous chemicals close to a residential area.

The OCTA has drafted what’s called a “negative declaration,” which basically says the project will have no significant environmental effects that can’t be mitigated, so there’s no need for a full environmental impact report (EIR).

Last month, 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, which would take many months and potentially reveal severe environmental problems with the plan.

Frank Smith, one of the Travata residents who has been working hard on the issue, called Chi’s letter “outstanding.” Smith said, “We certainly support the City’s recommendation for a full EIR, and are beginning to see a glimmer of hope.”

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