Claremont Metro Gold Line funding decades away

“Take your vitamins,” Sam Pedroza, chairman of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension, advised Claremont residents anticipating the Los Angeles County light rail’s connection to its eastern-most city. That completion is still 38 years away and counting, he says.

The Metro Transportation Authority (MTA) approved a ballot initiative Thursday to extend Measure R funding for another 30 years without funding for the Foothill Extension through Claremont.

“We are doing all that we can to at least get some leverage out of the state senate, but at this point…we are funded for 2050,” said Mr. Pedroza, who returned from a trip to Sacramento where he testified before the Senate Transportation Committee.

Assembly Bill 1446 calls for a sunset clause, which would end a half-cent sales tax for public transit by 2030, to be removed. If the bill receives voter approval, Measure R will extend through 2069. State legislators—Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Senator Ed Hernandez and Congresswoman Judy Chu among them—have pushed for funding to include the foothills, refusing to support AB 1446 without it. MTA officials remain opposed to their request.

“The Gold Line is funded to Azusa. Period. There is no more money for the Gold Line [Foothill Extension],” said MTA Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy at last week’s meeting of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, as reported by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

In May, the Foothill Extension Construction Authority announced a $764 million funding gap for the 24-mile rail to connect Azusa to Claremont, and eventually beyond. However, legislators maintain that Measure R funding—designated to fund critical highway and transportation projects throughout the county—was approved by voters to include the rail’s completion through Claremont.

“It is important to recognize that the voters approved the project to Claremont, but Measure R allocates enough funding to complete the project only to Azusa,” said Doug Tessitor, Construction Authority bBoard member. “The expenditure plan allows a complete estimate of what funding is needed to complete the project.”   

Thursday’s MTA decision was not unexpected news for the board and community who hoped to see the Gold Line completed by 2015.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised,” said Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Foothill Extension Construction Authority.  “San Gabriel Valley legislators worked hard in 2008 to define the project to Claremont, and Metro staff helped sell Measure R to voters by specifying the project to Claremont in their materials.”

AB 1446 will next move for approval by the Board of Supervisors. If approved there, it will be placed on the ballot this November.

—Beth Hartnett


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