Measure M gets strong support from high-profile politicians

Congressmembers Judy Chu, Norma Torres and Grace Napolitano and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged the passage of Measure M at Pomona College on Friday, October 14.

The politicians spoke at the Foothill Gold Line State of the Project 2016, which offered a glimpse of the past, present and future of the San Gabriel Valley light rail line.

Measure M, which is on the ballot for LA County this November, took center stage—every speaker in attendance urged the audience to get out the vote and ensure its passage.

Mr. Garcetti, who was introduced by Mayor Sam Pedroza, painted a picture of a life made more difficult by endless gridlock, something he said that Measure M will help to alleviate.

“If there’s one thing that ties everybody together, it’s the traffic that we are stuck in,” he said. “It is the time away from our families. It’s the job interviews that we miss. It’s the life that we can’t even contemplate doing—taking of a job across town because we wonder whether we’re going to spend our lives being stuck on the road. And I think that the Gold Line Foothill extension shows us what could happen.”

Measure M, if passed in November, will utilize a half-cent county sales tax increase to fund major transportation projects, with the Gold Line among the top priorities. The increase will have no sunset date, meaning it will not expire.

Mr. Garcetti tackled criticisms, one being the purported slow pace of the project, He noted that public and private partnerships have accelerated other Metro projects “by years and, sometimes, decades.”

“And so if we’re complaining that it’s taking too long, pass the measure and then let’s fight about speeding it up,” he said. “Not passing it, I guarantee you, slows it down even more.”

During the opening session, Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian presented a progress report, detailing the successes and future of the light rail line, which ultimately will extend 38 miles at a total cost of $3 billion.

But when LA County Metro Board Chair John Fasana asked Mr. Balian about a “Plan B” if Measure M doesn’t pass, he did not paint a rosy picture, noting how difficult it would be to go after federal funds and cap-and-trade grants. He estimated the project could be delayed by 30 years.

“So from our perspective, this measure is the only likely way this project is going to be built,” he said.

Measure M needs at least two-thirds approval from LA County residents in order to pass.

Chris Burner, the Chief Project Officer for the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, offered conceptual site plans for all the proposed stations along the extension, including Claremont’s station, which would be built just east of the current Claremont Depot to the west of College Avenue. The Depot is currently under lease by the Claremont Museum of Art.

The existing Metrolink station, Mr. Burner said, would be moved east of College Avenue and a 1,260- space parking structure will be built where the current Metrolink parking lot stands, to be shared by both Gold Line and Metrolink riders.

There will be about four times as much parking available for the upcoming stations. Mr. Balian noted it was due to overwhelming demand for parking at other recently-opened Gold Line stations.

“They’re so disgruntled out there in traffic that they’re getting out of their cars all along the route and filling up those parking garages,” he said.

Funds still needed for the project extend into the billions—$1.153 billion for the LA County portion and an additional $63 million for the San Bernardino portion, Mr. Burner said.

The 12.3-mile-long proposed extension from Glendora to Montclair is expected to open around 2023 if the measure passes and everything will fall into place.

Ms. Napolitano, who represents California’s 32nd congressional district, called the Gold Line “the most important transportation project in this community and in other communities,” and recalled the smog cover in the 1950s and the vast improvement in air quality since that time.

“Now things have changed and the reduction has been tremendous,” she said. “And that continues with the work you’re doing with the Gold Line.”

Ms. Torres, representing the 35th congressional district—which extends into San Bernardino County—urged the extension of the Gold Line to the Ontario Airport, slated to be the next step after the Glendora-to-Montclair portion is built.

The meeting was broken off into three panels. One delved into the Gold Line’s proximity and impact to education and how it will benefit the Claremont Colleges; another on station design, with an emphasis on the importance of having a welcoming and pedestrian-friendly station in every city; and another the importance of transit-oriented development around the Gold Line.

The panel on station design, moderated by Cal Poly Pomona Dean of Environmental Design Michael Woo, included Pasadena Economic Development Manager Eric Duyshart and Arcadia City Councilmember April Verlato.

Mr. Duyshart pointed to a 374-unit mixed-use development that envelops Pasadena’s Memorial Park station, creating a seamless transition between the station, the park and different city amenities. Another Pasadena station, the Del Mar station, repurposed an old train station into a restaurant and created another mixed-use development that integrates with the Gold Line station.

Ms. Verlato talked about how Arcadia uses its new Gold Line station for city events, including a Fourth of July celebration, and the creation of a “community benefits district” around the station. She noted there was early resistance by Arcadia residents to the Gold Line extension.

“More and more people became warm to the idea of wanting a train station and, since its opened, a lot of people have seen the benefits and the opportunities it can provide for our community,” Ms. Verlato said.

The Gold Line has proven to be so popular, Ms. Verlato noted, that the new parking structure—which was originally slated to have 800 spaces but was cut down to 300 spaces—regularly fills up before 9 a.m. on weekdays, causing irritation among Arcadia commuters.

“All we know is that we don’t have enough parking already, and we’ve only been open since March,” she said.

During her speech, Ms. Chu stressed that the Gold Line extension is of paramount importance to the region and urged its passing.

“Let’s make sure to get the Foothill Gold Line going all the way to the Ontario Airport, and let’s make sure that we fulfill our dream of an LA County that is friendly to mass transit,” she said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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