Updated: Tour of future Gold Line station sites-podcast

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com
When you take a bus tour around cities, it’s often exciting to view the unfamiliar sites along the way. But, how often do you get excited about sites that are not even there?

The thought of a state-of-the-art Metro Gold Line train running through Claremont to Montclair and connecting the neighboring Foothill cities sounds incredible to some; however, it unfortunately remains at this point, only a thought.

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Current funding for the Metro Gold Line extension known as the Foothill Gold Line project only covers the section of light rail that will have stations connecting Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Pomona. And questions about how to fund a $450 million extension of the project into Claremont alone have been stewing since 2016 when the total financial cost of the L Line extension well-over exceeded expectations.

But on Monday, numerous local and state officials met at an event orchestrated by House Appropriations Committee Member Norma Torres, D-Pomona, in an effort to push their case for funding from President Joe Biden’s recently approved one-trillion dollar infrastructure plan that would cover at least some of the cost of a light rail extension project from Pomona into neighboring Claremont and Montclair. The project would have the Gold Line end at Montclair’s Transcenter instead of Pomona.

To help sell the vision for the necessity of the extension, state and local officials including Claremont Councilmember Ed Reece and Congressman David Price of North Carolina’s Fourth District, who is also the chairman of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee and member of the House Appropriations Committee, took a bus trip around Montclair and Claremont. Each painted a picture of a new light railway system running throughout the cities and the stations along the way.

The project would connect the two cities to the already ongoing project which is in operation across Foothill communities to the west. Instead of running along the 10 freeway like its heavy rail Metrolink cousin, the Metro Gold Line light railway system will run along the 210 freeway and connect passengers to Pasadena, Monrovia and even Chinatown in Los Angeles.

“We have about three million trips a day, this is commonplace when you see it along the [210] freeway with no alternative. Folks have no alternative to get to work, to get to downtown and it’s limited that only 3 percent of all trips are via transit,” Habib Balian, the chief executive officer for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, said on Monday. “This is something we want to change and that’s why we’re devoting so much of our time to today.”

Montclair Councilman Bill Ruh, who co-led Monday’s bus tour, explained the light railway system would be more cost effective for Foothill residents as fares are much cheaper than those for heavy rail. He also said the new system would also not be as taxing on the environment as it’s less polluting than other commuter rails.

Councilmember Ed Reece highlighted that the proposed light rail would not only add approximately 8,000 new passengers from neighboring cities, according to a recent study, but that the L Line would also help the some 12,000 students and faculty members of the Claremont Colleges get to and from campus — as well as commute around the greater Los Angeles area.

“Right now, what we have to do based on how the funding is set and how our approvals are set environmentally, we’re looking towards our partners at the state level…our state elected officials, Assemblymember [Chris] Holden, Senator [Anthony] Portantino, champions of the Gold Line, they are working tirelessly to help us get the funding necessary from the state level and be part of future funding that can come from the state level,” Councilmember Reece said. “It’s likely that’s that is something they will tackle in the next legislative session.”

“But…I have very high hopes that the Gold Line will come through Claremont to Montclair,” he added.

The overall Foothill project linking Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Pomona together is estimated to be about 36 percent complete according to a presentation from Mr. Balian.

While state funding remains a mystery, funding from the federal government too also remains up in the air. Though bringing members of Congress down to tour what could turn out to be a pivotal transit system sounded like a smart play, residents won’t know for some time whether the attempt was a great move or a busted Hail Mary for months to come.

If funding is approved by the end of the year and a contract can be drawn up by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, a best-case scenario, citizens in and around Claremont might be looking at the new transit system sometime in 2028. Realistically, however, even with the aid of federal funding, the first few passengers may not see the inside of the light rail train until possibly 2030 or 2031.

 

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