County leaders decided last week to opt out of a Transportation Enhancement Activities grant request it began working on in 2004 to create a Transportation Wing of the Eastern California Museum.
When the project was first brought before the Board of Supervisors in October 2004, the Carson and Colorado Railway Society proposed applying for the TEA grant to construct a facility to restore and eventually house Engine No. 18.
Over the years the project has run into several problems concerning where to build the facility and on Tuesday, Interim Public Works Director Doug Wilson said the project has changed so much since it was first proposed that Caltrans, which administers the grant, said it would likely be rejected if it were re-submitted.
Most recently, county staff decided to move the project from a proposed project site on Mazourka Canyon Road in Independence after negotiations for a parcel of property with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were unsuccessful.
The county proposed moving the Transportation Wing project to a section of the Eastern California Museum in Independence, which is located on property leased from LADWP.
“The LADWP, from which the county leases the museum grounds, has indicated that they would support constructing the Transportation Wing at the museum,” a staff report from Wilson states.
With the support of the LADWP, county staff began looking at what it would take to build the wing at the museum and developed a list of potential problems, including environmental concerns, safety and liability issues associated with the Railway Society doing maintenance on the locomotive once it is moved to the museum, and maintenance and utility costs for the building.
Due to the site change, “the scope of the project has changed significantly and a new Transportation Enhancement application must be submitted to Caltrans by April 25 in order to ensure that funding programmed into the 2010-11 fiscal year for the project can be accessed,” Wilson said.
“Carson and Colorado has been patient with this whole process,” said Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney, whose district includes Independence. “The end goal is basically to have a building to protect the engine once it’s restored because it would be a working locomotive.”
Fortney went on to say that the project has his full support, but, because the TEA process has been so difficult, he said he is in favor of seeking alternative solutions.
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius also said she supports the project and Carson and Colorado, but had concerns about the amount of time the TEA process requires from county staff.
“When county staff is dealing with this, it is prioritized over other things. We should prioritize projects that have results for the county,” Arcularius said.
Fortney made a motion to drop the TEA application that was unanimously supported by the board.
“Now we can move forward with new ideas,” he said. “I’m confident in this group and in this project.”