Residents say they're worried about increased traffic and possible elimination of jobs housed in a building set to be demolished.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A proposed expansion of the Metrolink station in downtown Riverside is generating controversy in the surrounding neighborhood over concerns about increased traffic and possible elimination of jobs housed in a building set to be demolished.
But the Riverside County Transportation Commission said the project is necessary to meet the demands of a growing community.
"Here in Southern California, our passenger rail system operates on freight tracks, so passenger trains share the space with freight trains," said Aaron Hake, the deputy executive director for RCTC. "If we want to bring more passenger trains into downtown Riverside, we have to make more room for them."
Hake said the RCTC is currently in the process of undergoing an environmental impact review of the nearly $80 million project. He said Metrolink's goal is to one day have train service every 30 minutes across the region.
"Without adding more capacity here at the [Riverside] station, it will be very difficult for us achieve that vision of a more robust passenger transit system here to downtown Riverside," said Hake.
But there's a catch.
If the expansion moves forward, it will require RCTC to demolish a historic building immediately to the east of the current station.
Besides adding a new platform and an extra set of tracks, RCTC plans to build a new parking lot to accommodate additional traffic.
That's a concern to nearby residents, especially with plans to build a new elementary school less than a block away from the proposed train station expansion.
"With all of that traffic, how are the parents going to feel their children are safe?" asked resident Mary Figueroa. "You see how this street is totally packed right now? This is nothing compared to what's going to happen when that development comes up."
A group of concerned residents gathered recently to express their concerns about the future of the proposed elementary school, which is something they say is critical in their eastside neighborhood.
"A lot of our children have been bused out to other neighborhoods," said resident Juan Navarro. "We need to have our children stay where they live."
The Riverside Unified School District's Board of Education voted unanimously to approve a resolution in opposition to the project.
"Our concern is the wellbeing of our students, and our neighborhoods," said school board president Brent Lee. "I think noise, being able to have class in a setting that's conducive to learning and you don't have outside noise from train traffic or additional cards."
The historic building that could be demolished if the project moves forward is used by Prism Aerospace, which reportedly employs close to 200 people.
It's unclear what would happen to those jobs if the company is forced to relocate. Several phone calls and emails sent to management were not immediately returned.
The school board president said there have been discussions made behind the scenes but no agreement has been reached on potential changes to the project.
While the district has not yet threatened legal action, if the project moves forward, litigation is an option.
"I'm supportive of increased public transportation and overall, that's good for the community," said Lee. "But we want to make sure any impacts that a project like this expanding in the community is not going to have an adverse [impact] on our community and our kids that live there."