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More funding needed to get Gold Line to Pomona

The public got a glimpse of the future for the Gold Line at a scoping meeting in La Verne on Monday night.

The meeting signaled the start of creating a supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR), which will examine the effects of building the light rail project from Glendora to Montclair.

In November, the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority revealed it was aiming to split the project into two parts—from Glendora to La Verne by 2024 and La Verne to Montclair by 2028.

But now, the Construction Authority is proposing to split the project into four phases, and is hoping to move the goal posts just a little bit more eastward.

The Construction Authority is, “currently working with Metro to get a little further, not just to La Verne, but to Pomona as well,” said Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian.

That plan comes with a hefty price tag with a small window to get it. Mr. Balian told the COURIER that the authority needs an extra $200 million by Spring 2019 to make that move happen.

The Construction Authority is looking at different ways to cut costs in order to meet that goal. Part of it includes working with Metro to lower its 15 percent contingency, but another part of it includes “deviations in design,” Mr. Balian said. Those deviations might mean tweaking certain parts of the design to save money, but would not be noticeable by riders.

“They designed it for a Cadillac, but maybe a Chevy will do,” Mr. Balian said.

If the funds are secured, the Pomona station could be open by August 2025, nearly a year after La Verne’s scheduled opening of November 2024.

The SEIR should be completed by November 2019, according to a timeline provided by the Construction Authority.

The new plan still leaves Claremont without a station until 2028. Under the plan, the City of Trees will be part of phase three, which will involve construction of the line from the Pomona station to Claremont. Phase four will involve construction from Claremont to Montclair.

Both the Claremont and Montclair phases would be completed by August 2028, but only if the requisite funds are in place. Construction Authority CCO Lisa Levy Buch told the COURIER that they have until mid-2021 to secure the needed funds.

With the full length of the project uncertain, representatives from the San Bernardino County Transit Authority (SBCTA) are looking at alternative ways to connect the two counties. SBCTA is currently working with Metro to build the Gold Line into Montclair.

What that could look like is the possibility of a station used as a transfer point from the Metrolink to the Gold Line, and vice versa, utilizing both train lines and connecting them via a shared fare system.

But the top brass in Los Angeles has made it clear that they want to see the Gold Line fully built.

The Metro board of directors reaffirmed their intention to keep the Gold Line a priority and to build the project to its intended Montclair destination at their meeting on December 6, Mr. Balian said in an email. The board also moved to identify available funding sources to fill the nearly $600 million gap to complete the project.

A number of Claremont city councilmembers, both new and old, attended the meeting, including former councilmembers Larry Schroeder and Sam Pedroza and new councilmembers Jennifer Stark, Jed Leano and Ed Reece. City Manager Tara Schultz also attended the meeting.

Mr. Pedroza also stepped down as vice chair of the Foothill Gold Line board on Tuesday, leaving Claremont without a seat on the board. Pomona mayor Tim Sandoval will replace him, Ms. Buch said.

She noted that Claremont would still have a presence on the joint powers authority (JPA) board, which advises the board.

Throughout Monday evening, city officials and residents milled in and out of the La Verne Community Center, with Gold Line representatives offering information about certain phases of the project.

Comments from the community were received on Monday as part of the scoping process, and will continue to be received through January 4.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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