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Gold Line, Metrolink target Claremont in letter exchange

Claremont has been thrust into the midst of a dramatic series of events regarding the upcoming Gold Line expansion, with only months before groundbreaking.

Days after County Supervisor Hilda Solis made a motion to study eliminating the Claremont Metrolink Station as part of the upcoming Gold Line expansion, Mayor Larry Schroeder wrote a letter requesting they be informed of the process and that the concerns of the Claremont community be included in future planning.

The letter, dated September 25, highlighted Ms. Solis’ motion during the September 20 Planning and Programming Committee meeting, that came as a surprise to the city. City leaders expressed concern that the study would be made without the appropriate input from the community.

“While we appreciate your leadership in making sure this issue is studied in a timely fashion to limit Gold Line construction expenditures and time delays, should a decision be made to eliminate the station, we firmly believe this decision should not be made lightly and that the impacted users and the Claremont community must be a part of the process,” Mr. Schroeder wrote. 

Ms. Solis’ motion requested Metro conduct a 60-day study looking into the pros and cons of eliminating the station, including taking a look at current and projected ridership under existing conditions, total parking spaces and current parking space utilization rate, impacts and potential mitigations to Claremont Metrolink riders, cost savings and its overall impact on Claremont.

Specifically, Mr. Schroeder requested the following additions to the study: specific language ensuring Claremont staff will be included in the study team, analysis of when Metrolink service will be discontinued during Gold Line construction and how long Claremont will be without rail transit options, and an analysis of how gate operations at all crossings in the city would be changed if the station was eliminated.

In a statement provided to the COURIER, Ms. Solis said she introduced the motion—as part of the larger San Bernardino Line study—calling for more information to allow time for community input, avoid delays and to prevent cost overruns on the Gold Line project.

“There was never any intention to push for the elimination of the Claremont Metrolink station,” she wrote. “Only to prioritize this portion of the study in order to provide the public with more information as quickly as possible.”

Councilmember Corey Calaycay, Mr. Schroeder and Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor attended the Metro meeting on Thursday, September 28 as the board gathered input on the motion. Ms. Solis said she would revise her motion at that time to allow for more input from Claremont.

“This revised motion includes recommendations made by the city of Claremont as part of the study team to assist with community engagement and ensure that the study clearly reflects local concerns,” she wrote.

A complete report on the board meeting will be published online at claremont-courier.com and in next week’s edition.

 

Metrolink calls for more overpasses, Claremont responds

The mayor took a more forceful tone in a letter to Metrolink CEO Art Leahy Tuesday.

Mr. Schroeder wrote in response to a September 11 letter in which Mr. Leahy suggested all crossings throughout the shared corridor be grade separated, meaning an overpass should be built at Claremont Boulevard, College Avenue and Cambridge Avenue, in addition to Indian Hill and Towne, Garey, Fulton and White Avenues.

In his letter, Mr. Leahy drew attention to several safety concerns with street-level crossings, including train frequency, the amount of tracks cars and pedestrians would have to cross, construction impacts and the possibility of cars and pedestrians going around the gates due to increased wait times.

“Evidence from around the United States shows that shared corridors present a serious change to standards and can cause numerous operations, maintenance and safety challenges,” Mr. Leahy wrote.

Mr. Schroeder responded to those concerns in a September 26 letter. 

“The city of Claremont is disappointed by this assertion given how far along we are in the planning process,” Mr. Schroeder wrote. “We are also incredibly concerned with the significant impact three additional grade-separated crossings will have on the community.”

Mr. Schroeder remarked that although traffic concerns on Indian Hill Boulevard put a street-level crossing in jeopardy, there are no such concerns at other Claremont crossings due to vehicle counts and surrounding conditions. Mr. Schroeder also addressed Mr. Leahy’s concerns about safety at the crossings. 

“To our knowledge, upgrading the current vehicle and pedestrian crossings has not been a priority of Metrolink up to this point, despite the concern for safety noted in your letter,” Mr. Schroeder wrote.

The mayor did acknowledge impacts to the community when construction begins, but noted that “these impacts do not compare to the overwhelmingly negative impacts of having grade separation at all crossings in Claremont.”

Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian responded to Metrolink on September 20, noting the claims presented in Mr. Leahy’s letter “are both premature and not based in fact.”

“The construction authority has applied the appropriate design criteria and standards in designing the crossings and has gone above and beyond anything that has been done in Los Angeles County rail system to ensure safety at the crossings,” Mr. Balian wrote.

Council hears Gold Line update

The council heard an update on the Gold Line developments from Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor at its meeting Tuesday night. Mr. Tudor, who is also on the Gold Line Construction Authority’s technical advisory committee, explained the only draft crossing study that had been completed thus far was for the Cambridge Avenue crossing, which suggested an overpass was not needed.

He also relayed that Metro is looking into paid parking at the proposed structure in order to cut down on parking spaces and the garage filling up too early. A revised amount of parking spaces is expected from the construction authority by November, Mr. Tudor said.

Councilmember Sam Pedroza called Metrolink “one of the major driving issues,” as opposed to Metro or Ms. Solis, and remarked that there is a perceived competition between Metro and Metrolink.

“Metrolink is making several efforts to stop the Gold Line from moving past Pomona,” he said, noting that they’re initiating these efforts through studies by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and Metro. Ms. Solis’ study, he said, is to look at something that “at the very least will be able to be identified, some knowledge that we can use.”

“We’re going to fight for this Metrolink station as much as we can, but we’ve got to play along,” Mr. Pedroza later added.

Groundbreaking on the project is set to begin in December.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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