Crowds applaud the inaugural ride of the Gold Line extension
Los Angeles County's latest light-rail line — the $898-million Gold Line extension through the Eastside — was dedicated Saturday morning at Union Station and a sparkling silver train full of dignitaries rolled out for the inaugural ride.
The six-mile extension of the line from downtown L.A. through Boyle Heights and into East Los Angeles opens to the public on Sunday, when passengers will be able to ride the entire length of the line to Pasadena for free. The Saturday event gave elected and transportation officials a chance to give speeches and laud the newest public transportation offering in the county.
At 9:30 a.m. sharp, the glimmering rail cars glided into the East L.A. Civic Center station, which sits in the middle of 3rd Street, where a crowd was assembled. As the train rolled into the station, it broke through a plastic black banner. Firecrackers rang and cannons blew out confetti.
"When I was on this train a few minutes ago, going through downtown and Boyle Heights, and here in East L.A., all the memories came back -- the memories of your boyhood, the memories as you go into manhood," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who grew up in Boyle Heights. "I'll tell you something: I couldn't be prouder of this community today."
Santino Hernandez, 28, who lives in Boyle Heights, was elated at the rail line, which has been under construction since 2004.
"We're happy it's finally here. We've been needing public transportation out here to connect us with Union Station," said Hernandez, a day laborer. "It's more dependable than the bus."
His wife, Celene, added that it would be easier to load their baby stroller carrying their 2-year-old son, Christopher, onto the rail line than the bus.
Mary Louise Sevilla, 67, a retiree who lives in East L.A., was worried about the safety of the Gold Line, as she eyed a child playing flag football across the street from the station at David Wark Griffith Middle School.
"Hopefully, the kids understand that they have to look both ways before they cross," she said. "You know how kids are."
There are eight stations along the route: Atlantic, East L.A. Civic Center, Maravilla, Indiana, Soto, Mariachi Plaza, Pico/Aliso and Little Tokyo Arts District. At Union Station, riders can continue onto the existing Gold Line, which winds its way toward Pasadena; transfer to the Red Line subway to Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley; ride the Purple Line, which ends in Koreatown; or connect to Metrolink trains that carry riders to neighboring counties.
On Sunday, the East L.A. Civic Center station will feature live music, a farmers market and activities for children. And, of course, mariachis will perform at the Mariachi Plaza station.
-- Baxter Holmes reporting from East Los Angeles