Viewpoint: Fortress Claremont

by Ludd A. Trozpek

Imagine the Village if the Metro Gold Line people have their way: There will be a 30-foot-high train overpass at Indian Hill. This will be constructed on 30-foot concrete-walled berm abutments that will extend west to the townhouses and east to the Depot.

Atop this edifice will be 20-foot steel towers strung with trolley electrical and support wires. The train noise from the elevated train will be broadcast throughout the Village. And the Metrolink and freight train noise, which will come from tracks at grade and immediately adjacent to the overpass bridge, will reflect directly into south Claremont.

To the east, just past College Avenue, a blocks-long three-level parking structure will be wedged between First Street and the tracks, stealing the view and reflecting more Metrolink, freight train and Gold Line noise to the south.

The structure will accommodate 1100 cars from points locally and throughout western San Bernardino County since, for many years, Claremont will likely be the end of the line. This parking structure will be twice or three or four times the amount of parking at other towns along the route to accommodate the crowds.

To the west, just past Cambridge, another huge bridge structure will rise to cross Towne Avenue and will visually and sonically intrude on the residents in the western part of south Claremont.

This was the vision that Mayor pro tem Sam Pedroza laid out at a sustainability meeting on Monday night. Some of these ideas have been locked into an approved EIR for the Gold Line for some time, but the overpass at Indian Hill is a new one that will fill in the last remaining gap in the wall between south Claremont and the rest of town. Mr. Pedroza even averred that it would provide a nice “entrance” to Claremont. To which a resident of south Claremont reminded him that there was a lot of Claremont south of his new “entrance.”

It seems that this overpass idea has been kicking around in city hall and among staff for many months, but it was raised publicly only four weeks ago in a Council “ceremonial” item. There were two sparsely-attended “informational” meetings since. Certainly, Mr. Pedroza has been aware of the proposal for much longer because he is vice-chair of the Gold Line Construction Authority.

Now we hear that council must decide on whether Claremont wants this eyesore bridge or not, rush-rush, at its meeting on February 23. Where is the public discussion? Where are the alternatives? The Gold Line people, Mr. Pedroza made clear, are only presenting one alternative to a grade-level crossing at Indian Hill: Take it or leave it.

In fact, there is a perfectly feasible, environmentally superior alternative to the overpass, one which was used in the similarly crowded and built-out portion of Pasadena:?depress the Gold Line tracks below grade at Indian Hill.

In Pasadena, this was done just north of Del Mar station (where the train is actually in a tunnel) and also from Holly Avenue to the 210 freeway where the train goes under the edge of some townhomes and then crosses below Walnut Avenue. So any claim that a depressed train line can’t be done is so much baloney. However, according to Mr. Pedroza on Monday, it can’t be done.

The acoustic, visual and traffic advantages of a depressed Gold Line route should be evident to anyone. Some of us remember the fights with Cal Trans to get the 210 freeway depressed when it was built. It would look like the San Bernardino freeway otherwise.

This matter, though, will not be considered by the Planning Commission, according to Mr. Pedroza. Nor will it even be visited by the Traffic and Transportation Commission, which one would think to be a no-brainer. Instead, according to Mr. Pedroza yesterday, it will be on Tuesday’s council agenda as a matter of first impression.

This whole thing is a bit reminiscent of the rush to Measure PS. That, too, was signed, sealed and delivered to the public without adequate vetting. Each proposal had a monstrous public structure as its outcome. There will even be a county-wide public vote on funding for the Gold Line extension, probably in November.

In the meantime, this overpass with the vertical 30-foot concrete walls, running for a third of a mile through the Village, ought to be re-thought. Otherwise, Claremont will become “The City of Berms, Barricades and Balustrades.”

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