Simi gets $10 million for open land and railroad work
Simi Valley is getting a big payday from the state, with $10.5 million from the 2022-23 California budget earmarked for a local train project and acquiring open space.
Signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on June 30, the $308 billion budget includes $4.5 million so Metrolink can add a rail line to Simi as part of a plan to upgrade regional rail service from passengers along the Ventura County line.
The company is part of Southern California’s Optimized Rail Expansion capital plan to upgrade the Metrolink system ahead of the 2028 Summer Olympics.
The $4.5 million was the final funding needed to complete the $86.5 million track, aimed at improving pedestrian and car safety, as well as service and reliability in accordance with the state’s rail plan. of California, said Assemblyman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks). , who lobbied for money for District 44 projects.
Irwin is running for re-election in November to the state Assembly, this time in the newly formed Assembly District 42. The new district will include Simi Valley, but not Port Hueneme or Oxnard, which will be represented in the redesigned 38th district.
Irwin takes on Republican candidate Lori Mills of Simi Valley.
Most of the rail expansion is funded by Senate Bill 1 funds from the California State Transportation Agency and funding from the Federal Railroad Administration.
The proposal includes 2.15 miles of new lane, paralleling the existing lane from Hidden Ranch Drive to Sequoia Avenue, and crossing improvements at five locations that will create a “quiet zone” corridor at several of the crossings at level.
“I think one of the great things for residents, whether they use Metrolink or not, is that once that last location is funded, you won’t hear the train honking or it will be a lot less,” said Irwin. .
Environmental plans are complete and regulatory permits are expected to be completed by the end of the summer, according to Metrolink’s schedule.
Construction is expected to begin in fall 2023 and continue through spring 2025.
In meetings with Mayor Keith Mashburn and City Manager Brian Gabler, Irwin said she learned the train proposal was one of their top priorities, so she sought funding on their behalf.
“We all think this will be a very timely and good investment for the people of Simi,” Irwin said.
At a recent council meeting, council member Dee Dee Cavanaugh thanked Irwin for his efforts to get the project funded.
Mashburn also thanked the community “because it’s your tax dollars that are distributed.”
Irwin said the state is also providing $6 million for the acquisition of Poe Ranch, which includes 50 acres of farmland in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains.
“We were really excited to see that. . . in the budget,” Irwin said of funding for the pivotal wildlife corridor.
The ultimate goal of the wildlife crossing being built at Agoura Hills is to connect the Santa Monica Mountains through the Simi Hills to the Las Padres Forest, Irwin said.
The funding, provided to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, will be used to purchase Poe Ranch in partnership with the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority.
“It will put this property in the hands of the public,” Irwin said.
Going forward, the property may still be available for cattle ranching, but details are yet to be determined, RSRPD manager Dan Paranick said. There is still work to be done to finalize the real estate transaction, he said.
During his meeting with Paranick and the RSRPD Board of Directors, Irwin also learned that the Park District was interested in purchasing Big Sky Ranch, but state funding for this application was denied due to of limited resources.
Board director Brian Dennert said he was grateful Irwin was able to fit Poe Ranch funding into the budget.
“She knows the importance of open spaces,” Dennert said. “This land is an important link for wildlife and will provide more opportunities for recreation.”
Dennert said Poe Ranch also connects many popular trails, which will entice more people to hike, bike and exercise.
“(RSRPD) is currently working with partner agencies and the owner on the specifics and details,” Dennert said. “I’m really excited about this possibility.”
Outside of Simi Valley, Irwin said two other proposals in his district were also funded at his request, including an additional $2 million to add to the previously state-funded $5 million for the capital project. from the Cal State Channel Islands Early Childhood Education Center.
Irwin said the state previously funded $130 million for the Rice Avenue grade separation project in Oxnard, and this year it provided an additional $2 million for the relocation of utilities to the site.