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Claremonters give critical feedback on Gold Line bridge design

The city and the Gold Line Construction Authority received additional feedback on the light rail project from residents Monday night.

The meeting at the Blaisdell Center was another in a series of public information gatherings aimed to inform residents and receive feedback on the upcoming $1.476 billion project. Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor was on hand to present the plans to the roughly 20 residents  in attendance.

The topics under consideration at the meeting included station design, the proposed bridge over Indian Hill Boulevard and the 1,260-space parking structure to be built at the southeast corner of First Street and College Avenue.

Regarding the parking structure, Mr. Tudor noted the plans were still under review and could change in the future. Currently, the proposed four-story structure is a long rectangle shape that spans almost the entire length of the parking lot.

“We know that’s certainly not what we want to see as a final product by the time the project gets here,” Mr. Tudor said. To that end, he added, the city and the construction authority will be looking at the frequency of rideshare programs such as Uber and Lyft, and even the future potential of automated or self-driving cars.

The trick, Mr. Tudor said, is to avoid building a structure that’s too big and have half of it empty, but at the same time being as efficient as possible with the space they have. “That’s the balancing act we’re working on,” he said.

Residents in attendance also brought up the idea of Metro unveiling paid parking at the structure, which was floated at the Hughes Center meeting in July. Mr. Tudor called that a “trial project” that Metro is looking at.

Mr. Tudor also noted that traffic signals would be built at the College Avenue/First Street intersection as well as the First Street/Columbia Avenue intersection.

The city also got feedback on the current bridge design that was unvelied at the July meeting. Residents felt the original bridge proposed last year was bulky and closed-off. This new bridge, designed by local architect John Bohn, offers more open space on both sides of Indian Hill and a more curved and lighter design.

Sue Schenk acknowledged the newer bridge design was better, but was worried about how it would impact the upcoming Village South project. 

“This is putting a big wall between the existing village and the area we hope was going to be revitalized,” Ms. Schenk said.

Mr. Tudor said he was keeping in touch with the consultant behind the Village South project. “They know what’s being designed and are making it in a way that there’s not a wall,” he added.

Erik Griswold compared the proposed clearance of the bridge—22 feet—against the clearance of the I-10 bridge over Indian Hill Boulevard, which is 15 feet. If the bridge was lowered and the length of the ramp cut back, it would assuage many residents’ fears about the bridge being a barrier.

“We’re building this thing to be higher than it needs to be,” he said.

Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority CCO Lisa Levy Buch said the topic has come up before, but the authority determined that lowering the clearance would force them to place a warning sign on the bridge, which could be ugly. Construction crews would also need additional clearance when building the bridge.

The current direction of the council is to keep the Indian Hill crossing at street level, but the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has indicated a bridge must be built for traffic and safety reasons. The council is set to review the bridge at the October 10 meeting.

Celia Bullard, who has lived on Elder Drive for 25 years, asked about a tree survey and was concerned about California oak trees near where the Gold Line will be built. Mr. Tudor said a tree survey has not been done yet, but the city is trying to minimize tree impact as much as possible.

Later, Ms. Bullard said she was concerned about not only about trees, but about a possible sound wall that may impact her views. “It’s not what I signed up for when I bought my house,” she said.

The Traffic and Transportation Commission will review construction plans on September 28, and the city council is set to review them on October 10.

Groundbreaking on the nine-year project will take place next month.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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