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Foothill Gold Line project reaches construction milestone – with podcast

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Last Friday at Rhodes Park in San Dimas, California state senators, state assembly members and representatives at both the city and county level, along with members of the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, Metro, and Metrolink board, gathered for a event to announce the 9.1-mile stretch of the project from Glendora to Pomona had reached 50% construction completion.

The project, referred to as the L line, began construction in 2020 and is an extension of the current Gold Line system that will connect the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, to the current Gold Line light railway system.

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The current, about 31 mile system, runs from Monterey Park’s Atlantic Boulevard, to downtown Azusa, with stops along Los Angeles, South Pasadena, Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, and Irwindale.

The project is expected to increase ridership on the Metro system by an estimated 11,600 daily weekday boardings when the extension opens for passenger service, according to a news release. It will also “provide connections to important regional destinations like the LA County Fairplex, colleges and universities, historic downtowns, museums, regional parks and open space areas, and much more.”

Not to mention the L line will help alleviate traffic on the 10 and 210 Freeways as Inland Empire employees working in and around Los Angeles are likely to their cars at home in favor of the high-speed railway.

In August 2019, Kiewit-Parsons was awarded an $805.6 million contract to design and construct the nine-mile segment, with a two-year option to complete the full L line. However, plans to fund the remaining 3.2 miles from Pomona to Montclair fell through in October 2021.

Since 2019, the contractors have put in over one-million hours getting the project to this important milestone. Essential work on the nine-mile project remains, including relocation of freight track within shared corridors to make room for new light rail tracks; reconstruction of 21 at-grade crossings; construction of 19 new or renovated bridges; installation of new light rail tracks; construction of electric power systems; and construction of four new stations. The only 100% completed phase of the Foothill Gold Line project is its design.

Despite the numbers and obstacles brought on by COVID-19 over the last two years, officials announced that assembly of the project is still on track to meet its January 2025 deadline. Once construction is completed, the project will be “turned over to L.A. Metro for training and pre-revenue service,” according to the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority.

At the news conference, numerous speakers advocated for the Gold Line and its importance to a rapidly growing California. Among those in attendance at Friday’s event included U.S. Representatives Grace Napolitano and Judy Chu; California State Senator Anthony Portantino; California State Assembly Members Chris Holden and Freddie Rodriguez; Metro Board Chair and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis; Metro Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; Metro Board Member, Foothill Gold Line Board Member and Pomona Mayor, Tim Sandoval; Foothill Gold Line Board Chair and Claremont Mayor Pro Tem, Ed Reece; and Metro Board Member, Metrolink Board Chair and Glendale Council Member, Ara Najarian.

Mayors and city council members from connecting Foothill Gold Line cities were also in attendance. Cake and pictures in front of a new concrete bridge in San Dimas followed the formalities.

While the project’s progress was rightly celebrated, questions remained about potential funding sources for the remaining 3.2 miles of railway from Pomona into Montclair. Despite the 9.1-mile section from Glendora to Pomona already fully funded by Measure M, residual funds from Measure R, and other sources, funding for the Pomona to Montclair stretch has yet to materialize.

In short, officials are still playing the waiting game with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office. Although Newsom has not said no to the project, he has not said yes either.

Pushes for funding have occurred over the years including a September 2021 meeting where state lawmakers suggested the 3.2-mile railway be funded by the state’s surplus dollars, but no bill was or has been passed since.

Even after a well-crafted letter from the City of Claremont and surrounding area’s officials requesting money from the state’s surplus back in February, state budget and transportation authorities are still going over how to proceed with this and other projects.

“We’re fighting every day to try to get the $748 million,” Senator Portantino said. “We got a couple more weeks to push and we’re all going to push.”

The $748 million figure would cover the estimated cost of building the remaining 3.2-miles of the light rail system, completing the entire L line project from Glendora to Montclair.

The state’s fiscal year ends on July 1 and last month, Newsom announced a $98 billion budget surplus, with at least $5 billion designated for transportation projects. Local officials and the construction authority want nearly a fifth of that figure for the L line.

Those within the Los Angeles County Delegation body, like Senator Portantino, have made it a priority to get the remaining 3.2-mile extension covered as soon as possible. And if no funding materializes this fiscal year, they’ll try again next time around.

In the event the state shoots down funding proposals for the Pomona to Montclair segment a second time, Montclair City Manager Edward Starr said the city would work to acquire federal infrastructure dollars to support the cause.

The only concrete money allocated for the 3.2-mile project has been set aside by the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority at about $90 million.

The extension from Pomona to Montclair would allow for two new stops, one in Claremont and the other at the Montclair Transit Center. Four “planned grade separations for Gold Line trains only” would also accompany the unfunded segment.

While the fight for funding the 3.2-mile section continues, Los Angeles County Supervisor Barger added she’s grateful for each of the senators, congressmembers and representatives who are committed to making the proposed section a reality.

“When you have that in addition to the congressional delegations here represented by Congressmember Chu and Congressmember [Grace] Napolitano, it’s going to be work but I think we’re speaking with one voice,” Supervisor Barger said. “As a region, we recognize the definite benefit not only to L.A. County, but beyond the border to San Bernardino [County].”

Once the entire L line project is completed, it will be the first L.A. County light rail line to extend over the San Bernadino County line. Though funding remains up in the air for the crucial stretch, Metro authorities hope to have the entire project completed by the summer of 2028, when the Olympic and Paralympic games come to Los Angeles.

For more information about the Foothill Gold Line project and to view updates, visit https://foothillgoldline.org.

 

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