Metrolink was awarded $6.5 million Thursday in state funding to begin design, rail operations modeling and environmental assessment on a $10 billion plan to improve regional rail before for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

The funding from the California Transportation Commission is for the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion — or SCORE — Program, and is the first down payment on an $856 million grant from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program to provide grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and Senate Bill 1 to modernize the state’s transportation infrastructure.

The TIRCP grant is the largest award ever allocated to Metrolink.

“The Southern California region is home to 21.5 million people and the population is projected to grow by one million more within 15 years,” California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian C. Annis said. “Improving Metrolink will ease worsening traffic here on the nation’s busiest freeways, reduce emissions and ensure that freight can move freely on local freeways and rail corridors to support our powerhouse economy.”

Metrolink said that among the benefits of the SCORE program are safety enhancements that allow more “quiet zones,” where horns are not routinely blown at rail crossings, and a rail electrification study to reduce diesel emissions.

“Moving people and goods is critical to the region,” CTC Chair Fran Inman said. “SCORE helps commuters who drive longer distances and provides dedicated tracks to protect freight shipments from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest port complex in North America.”

Of the $10 billion cost of SCORE, Metrolink said it has secured $1.5 billion.

“Funding rail improvements now will help prevent a mobility crisis in Southern California at a time when the region’s freeways are operating at capacity and building new freeways is exceedingly difficult,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.

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