Both the state and the feds need to close the legislative loopholes for transportation environmental impact reports.
Several Riverside County transit riders and commuters have been long
wondering: When exactly will the Metrolink Perris Valley Line extension
project finally break ground on construction?
Transit officials estimate spring or summer of 2013 as the Riverside
County Transportation Commission was awarded state funds for the
project. It is currently awaiting federal funding, and a lawsuit filed
against the project will be
finally over by then. $53 million has been obligated to RCTC from the
California Transportation Commission. $75 million from the federal
government is awaited, after which the $247 million Perris Valley Line
project will be fully funded.
RCTC must be prepared and be ready to confront any possible delays from
the federal level to prevent anything else from delaying groundbreaking.
We've been patiently waiting...
As many of you are aware, the proposed Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension is
being challenged in court with its trial scheduled to start in
January. An opposing organization called Friends of Riverside Hills
filed a lawsuit in August 2011 challenging the
Environmental Impact Report for the rail project, claiming RCTC
failed to adequately detail the noise and pollution impacts of
excavating dirt around the tracks and other aspects of construction. The
case was merited to go to trial
last April. The group represents residents living in the residential
areas near UC Riverside.
To be fair to all parties involved, we live in the United States of
America and we citizens have a right to peacefully organize, freely
participate in robust debates, and challenge each other on issues.
That's a welcomed reality of living
in a free democracy; otherwise The Transit Coalition wouldn't exist.
Friends of Riverside Hills is challenging RCTC fair and square as its
lawsuit has legal merit; that's why the case has been allowed to go to
trial. However, the issue at
stake is a classic example of how a small issue can become a big
judicial problem; a loophole which should be addressed by lawmakers.
It's a clear fact that moving dirt around and grading sites are basic
steps for just about any major construction or development project, even
those that don't require an EIR. Both the state and the federal
government must consider
revisiting transportation legislation to prevent minor claims like those
addressed by Friends of Riverside Hills from having legal merit in the
future. This will prevent future transit and highway projects from being
mired in unnecessary
expensive litigation which ends up being paid for by local and county
taxpayers. Obviously, there should be written rules, mandates, and
limits to keep dust pollution and noise caused by grading and
construction to a minimum. The law
should state: If the construction contractor violates these terms,
pollutes the air or becomes too noisy, the firm, not the taxpayer, gets
Under the current system, RCTC is mandated to conduct a detailed
analysis on dust and noise pollution caused by transportation
construction. Friends of Riverside Hills found there wasn't enough data
reported in the project's EIR and now
the case is headed to trial. This current system allows for a pure waste
of local transportation resources. Protection against
construction-related dust pollution and noise is absolutely vital and it
can be regulated under better written
state and/or federal law, not litigation. If such provisions were in
place, the Perris Valley Line construction contractor would have been
held more accountable for any construction-related pollution and noise,
RCTC would know which areas
of the corridor would need to be quiet-zone designated, Friends of
Riverside Hills would have ended up with a frivolous case and the
lawsuit against the long-overdue Perris Valley Line would have been
thrown out by any impartial judge. This legal loophole must be closed by
the state and feds, and it needs to be done soon.