The Making of An Eyesore; And a Hell of a Climb, Too

49 steps up and 49 steps down

A little less than 20 years ago, some friends and I stood in front of the Fullerton City Council pleading with the Redevelopment Agency to build a pedestrian underpass at the train station instead of a steel bridge overpass. We had three reasons. The first was expense: an underpass was about half the cost of a bridge. Second was the matter of practicality and convenience: it is easier for a pedestrian to climb 24 steps versus 49; not to mention the cost of maintaining two elevators. Third, the bridge was going to tower over the Historic Santa Fe Depot – a real incongruous pairing and one in which the Depot suffered.

When the question was asked to the city staff during the public hearing about the possibilities of an underpass the Fullerton Redevelopment Manager Terry Galvin answered that an underpass would be too dangerous and could end up smelling like urine and besides, “nobody builds underpasses.” He even dug up an incident (and only one!) where somebody got stabbed – in Raton, New Mexico. Ooooooh, so scary! The fact of the matter is that an underpass would have been a mere 50 feet long – a little more than half the distance from home plate to first base!

The staff also dismissed Vince Buck’s brilliant idea of using the existing Harbor grade separation to get people from one side of the tracks to the other, a solution that would have been the most practical and cost efficient of all!

What has always bothered me about the city staff is that when they want something they will not give the city council all of the pertinant facts to make an intelligent decision; or they will deliberately inflate the project they want and diminish options they don’t want. And then the city council does not hold anyone on staff accountable for the messes they create. And that my Friends, is the history of Redevelopment in Fullerton.

A couple years later I was at the Oceanside train station and guess what?

25 steps in all

Of course lots of local Metrolink/Amtrak stations now have underpasses including Orange, Tustin, Laguna Niguel and many others. Money was saved, citizens were spared visual monstrosities, and maintenance costs were minimized.

But in Fullerton we have Molly McClanahan (who voted for the bridge), and her immortal words: hindsight is 20/20.

Almost twenty years later and the City of Fullerton doesn’t even seem to bother with the graffiti etched into the elevator towers’ glass.

16 Replies to “The Making of An Eyesore; And a Hell of a Climb, Too”

  1. I always wondered why that monster was built.

    Shadow and I went by the Tustin station the other day. What a difference.

  2. Hey Tony, remember how long it took to build that bridge? The damn thing was bright yellow for months! Look closely at the stairs and railings some time, the yellow primer is wearing through.

    Metrolink is building a 4th track at the depot and guess what? You can’t put 4 tracks underneath it. You can’t extend the 4th track around the bridge because the stairs are in the way.

    I wish FFFF would do a piece on the bullshit OCTA idea to run new Metrolink service Fullerton to Laguna Niguel. Tony is an interested party, so I’ll bet he has lots of great stories to tell. That is, if he’s allowed to talk.

    Hundreds of millions dollars wasted. Who the hell is going to ride Metrolink within Orange County to justify NEW EQUIPMENT and service every 30 minutes?

    Just watch, the Fullerton Depot is going to morph into a huge transfer station as people wait for connecting trains to/from Los Angeles or Riverside.

    1. 737-700, thanks for reminding me about the yellow monster that took over a year to complete. Did you ever get a chance to read our series titled The North Platform Fiasco? We were able to educate the council during construction of the north platform that there were several major design flaws, so the council voted to change the design midstream, but as usual no one was ever held accountable for the cost (over a hundred thousand) to make those changes.

      Has anyone heard the rumor that the city staff is recommending to the council to add more elevators to the eyesore?

      1. Yeah, I’m intimately familiar with the north platform fiasco.

        I just remembered a story I thought you’d enjoy. I happened to be at the depot when Terry Galvin was there looking around one day. A friend of mine approached him and they began talking about the pedestrian bridge, asking why a bridge and not a tunnel.

        Terry was very polite, but had plenty of BS excuses why a tunnel wasn’t possible. He said the station would have to be closed during construction because lots of dirt would need to be moved and the tracks put onto a shoofly, forcing a temporary closure of Walnut Ave south of the current bridge location. The operative word here is “temporary” but the City was reluctant to let that happen. Why, I don’t know, because Walnut AND Highland Ave were closed for a year when the underpass was built in 2000.

        Another reason he cited was location. He said a tunnel wouldn’t fit where the bridge is because of the long ramps needed on both sides. On the north side, the tunnel ramp would run into the old Santa Fe office and if you went a little ways east, the old chop shop property was still there. I guess it eluded him that tunnel ramps can be constructed different directions, they can turn left or right if needed on either side of the tracks. I think he was basing this theory on the ramps at Los Angeles Union Station.

        Then he said something about crime in the tunnel and (I think) concerns about flooding.

        Sounded to me like Terry was desperate for reasons to defend the pedestrian bridge because the contractor hadn’t been there for weeks.

        1. Everybody wanted to spend money – lots of it. Only Norby voted against the bridge.

          Galvin just made stuff up and the nincompoops like Molly went for it. Shoring and excavation would have been required, but so what? For God’s sake they just built an underpass at the existing station in Orange!

          That’s what “staff” they multiply imaginary difficulties in things they are against. And what they want is always easy as pie.

          Galvin was in charge of the whole north platform fiasco as we described it – a complete fustercluck. One of the most incompetent parts was the construction of a Phase I masonry block planter exactly in the footprint of the Phase II elevator tower (they already had Phase II plans)! And these are the people that the Molly’s of Fullerton invest with their trust and our tax dollars.

  3. I rode Metrolink every day for 5 years. After a week the novelty of a crossing a bridge wears off. Every time I climbed those stairs I thought about how stupid it was to go up three stories instead of down one. I figured the bridge must have cost less – I guess I was wrong.


  5. Not mentioned is why thy bridge had to be so tall. BNSF runs double stack freight trains – lots of them – through Fullerton everyday. Those big trains require big bridges.

    As far as the service within Orange County, I’ve ridden that route many times to go from Laguna Niguel to Fullerton to eat at the Spaghetti Factory. However, they don’t need to buy millions in new equipment just so I can get my pasta fix.

  6. I seem to recall that the giant erector set elevator is closed at some point in the late evening, stranding anyone who comes in on a late train. Anyone know if this is true?

  7. admin, when you win or settle your lawsuit against the Fullerton Redevelopment maybe you can make them build that Vince Buck idea. Jebus, I’d even support naming it after him!

  8. What a pile of crap. I have no issue with climbing stairs, but being locked in a metal cage with others climbing stairs makes me feel like a prole from 1984.

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