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Gold Line being challenged on possible terminus at Ontario Airport – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Posted by GoldLine

The following article appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on April 21, 2014.

Gold Line being challenged on possible terminus at Ontario Airport – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

By Steve Scauzillo

April 21, 2014

The little engine that could — the independent L.A.-to-Pasadena Gold Line construction agency — has battled larger interests in western Los Angeles for funding and sometimes for its very existence for decades.

Now, the San Gabriel Valley’s light-rail building entity is encountering resistance from the East.

A key bill that would allow the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority to extend the rail line across the county border to Ontario International Airport is being opposed by one of its allies, the San Bernardino Associated Governments. The opposition threatens the vision to link downtown L.A. and Pasadena to an airport by rail, a first in Southern California.

Without passage of enabling legislation from Pomona Assembly Democrat Freddie Rodriguez, the authority will have to stop planning a leg to the airport.

“We need authority to do work beyond our jurisdiction,” said Habib Balian, chief executive officer with the Gold Line Authority.

SanBAG’s board voted earlier this month to oppose the bill, A.B. 2574, saying it jumps the gun by promoting a particular rail option to the airport before the agency has had a chance to study other options.

The San Bernardino County planning agency said it is looking at “30 alternatives which could connect transit to Ontario International Airport.” The agency also objected because it was not consulted and said it could impose “uncontrolled expenditures” on the agency.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority may also oppose the measure. Its board is scheduled to discuss the bill Thursday.

Rodriguez, despite opposition from San Bernardino cities, has not withdrawn the bill. It goes before the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday.

“We want to keep the project moving forward,” said Rodriguez aide Francisco Estrada. “He believes in the vision of taking the Gold Line all the way to the airport.”

The Gold Line construction authority’s board is scheduled to vote on sponsorship of the bill on Wednesday. Its legislative committee recommended support of the Rodriguez bill.

The first extension of the foothill line is more than halfway completed. It will extend rail service from the Sierra Madre Villa station in east Pasadena to the second Azusa station at Citrus College. That extension will open at the end of 2015 or in early 2016.

A Phase 2b would continue east 12 miles through Glendora, La Verne, Pomona, San Dimas and Montclair. And a Phase 2c would continue through Upland, possibly stopping in Rancho Cucamonga before turning south and ending at Ontario Airport.

“There has been a long-held view that the connection to the airport would serve the San Gabriel Valley,” Balian said. He said a decline in Ontario Airport passengers recently was related to the recession and that the airport is and will remain viable.

Neither Phase 2b or 2c have any funding, Balian said.

But he said the Gold Line Construction authority has teamed up with SanBAG in the past to do a preliminary feasibility study that was released in 2008. Now, the Gold Line authority needs the OK from the state Legislature to work on a preliminary alternatives study, which would cost about $2 million, he said, and require funding from the airport.

The study will look at potential routes and environmental issues. “The foundation of the environmental work would start with this analysis,” he said.

Although SanBAG’s staff report says the bill is premature, Balian disagreed. He said planning for a light-rail extension can often take eight to 10 years before construction could begin.

“You want to start early enough,” he said.

April 22nd, 2014
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Construction Update and Picture of the Week

Posted by GoldLine

Myrtle Ave reopened to traffic on April 17, five weeks ahead of schedule.

April 21st, 2014
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Editorial: SanBAG needs to back Gold Line with vote – Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Daily Bulletin

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The following Editorial appeared in the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on April 18, 2014.

Editorial: SanBAG needs to back Gold Line with vote – Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Daily Bulletin

April 18, 2014

Given the long history of obstructionism, obfuscation and downright opposition from Los Angeles City Hall to the voter-approved extension of the Gold Line light rail east to San Bernardino County, the plan’s allies have to stick together.

Mostly, they do. Anyone along the foothills of the San Gabriels from Pasadena east can see what a crucial transit link the completion of the rail line will be. Anyone in Southern California who has followed the folly that incredibly has prevented light rail reaching the most obvious terminus of all, Los Angeles International Airport, can see that this opportunity to bring such a convenient transit system to Ontario International is an opportunity that is not to be missed, and one that could in fact be key to the economic revitalization of that airport.

Given the need for Gold Line allies to work together, how on Earth could the key Inland Empire planning agency take a position adamantly at odds with unity?

But that’s just what SanBAG, the San Bernardino Associated Governments board, did last week by declaring its opposition to Assembly Bill 2574, authored by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino, which would extend the Gold Line Construction Authority’s jurisdiction from Montclair to Ontario, allowing it to continue the planning work required for the project.

Rather than looking at the big, regional picture, the board bases its opposition on local control issues that threaten its constituents’ ability to get around without braving the daily gridlock of the 210 Freeway. Where’s the civic responsibility in that?

And its members absurdly claim that it’s unclear if building light rail to the Ontario airport is even a good idea in the first place, and claims that more study is needed on the issue. We haven’t met a soul, locally, who agrees.

“SANBAG is deeply concerned that this bill is premature as results from the present Ontario Airport access study are not anticipated until later in 2014,” the board writes. “The study is analyzing more than 30 alternatives for connections to LA/Ontario International Airport and an extension of the Gold Line is but one of these options.”

Oh, yeah? What are the others? Horses and buggies? Flying cars? A practical option that ties into the rail transit system currently being built throughout Southern California is hanging in the balance here, and SanBAG is crazily giving ammunition to the many Westside forces who would happily grab our light rail funding for themselves.

The Gold Line Phase 2 Joint Powers Authority board reports that SanBAG’s vote shows a clear misunderstanding of A.B. 2574’s intent:  “Their staff report stated that AB2574 ‘threatens the viability of SANBAG’s Measure I by requiring uncontrolled expenditures on a project, with no authority over a project operated in our county.’ However, language in the statute clearly states that the project cannot be built or operated without SANBAG’s agreement and approval. Their staff report ignored this important language.”

We think SanBAG should take another look at that language, and then take another vote on this vital issue. The time for Gold Line unity is now.

April 18th, 2014
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Construction Update and Picture of the Week

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More than a mile of rail (in 800-foot segments) is being transported along the right-of-way across Duarte and into Monrovia for installation.

April 11th, 2014
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Construction Update and Picture of the Week

Posted by GoldLine

Crews continue work on cross beam installation on one of three bridges that now cross Foothill Boulevard in Azusa. Just imagine taking a train east across the bridge. Quite the view of the foothills!

April 4th, 2014
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Transportation advocates back half-cent sales tax hike; L.A. could clash with L.A. County on transit tax measures – Los Angeles Times

Posted by GoldLine

The following articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 28, 2014 and March 31, 2014.

Transportation advocates back half-cent sales tax hike – Los Angeles Times

Metro is considering a measure for the 2016 ballot that could raise $90 billion over 45 years for various projects. A bid to extend a similar tax failed two years ago.


Subway passengers wait at a station in downtown Los Angeles. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

By Laura J. Nelson

March 28, 2014

Hoping to garner voter and political support across Los Angeles County for a possible half-cent sales tax increase, transportation advocates gathered downtown Friday to unveil a proposal for a 2016 ballot measure that could fund a range of new transit projects, including a toll highway and rail line through the Sepulveda Pass.

The tax proposal, announced by the advocacy group Move L.A., could raise an estimated $90 billion over 45 years and cost the average resident 25 cents to 30 cents a day, proponents said. It would also boost the countywide sales tax to 91/2 cents on each $1 spent — though shoppers in cities with their own sales tax would pay higher rates.

Responding to critics who complained that the city of Los Angeles received the lion’s share of transit projects from the half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters six years ago, elected officials — including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — emphasized that revenue from the new tax proposal would benefit all areas of the county.

“It will not simply be Mother Metro saying, ‘This is what you get,’ ” Metro Board of Directors Chairwoman Diane DuBois, a councilwoman from Lakewood, told conference attendees.

Metro has not yet decided to put a measure on the ballot. But with as much as $27 billion in added tax money to spend on rail projects, advocates said, the agency could build a light-rail link to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.

“What we’re doing here is trying to figure out what wins,” Move L.A. Executive Director Denny Zane said.

The tax increase would need a super-majority of 67% to pass. Metro’s preliminary polling says that 58% of residents would support a tax increase.

Any tax increase that goes on the ballot must appeal to voters in Beverly Hills, the San Gabriel Valley and South Los Angeles, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. The proposal “has to be regional, it has to be rational, it has to equitable — all three, all the time, all day long,” he told conference attendees. “If we neglect any one of those three elements, it will put the very proposition at risk.”

Guaranteeing projects across the county may be a political necessity, but it doesn’t always serve passengers the best, said Lisa Schweitzer, a USC professor who studies transit funding. She said transit-using communities with the potential for highest ridership, a common measure of success, tend to be clustered in the core of the county.

Two years ago, a proposed extension of the county transit sales tax approved in 2008 fell 0.6% shy of garnering the required two-thirds supermajority of votes. The loss came as a result of weak support in suburban, relatively well-off communities of the South Bay and the Westside, a Times analysis found. The analysis found support for the sales tax had eroded significantly from four years earlier, when voters initially approved the half-cent sales tax increase for transit.

“In order to get those areas interested in transit, you have to gold-plate it and sugarcoat it” with high-profile projects such as the Westside subway extension, which appeal to residents who typically drive their own cars, Schweitzer said. “But you can’t win without them.”


L.A. could clash with L.A. County on transit tax measures – Los Angeles Times

A half-cent sales tax increase being weighed for Los Angeles for the November ballot could endanger a countywide measure being studied for 2016, some transit activists say.

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said: "If you're trying to ask the question, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck, then the argument swings pretty forcefully toward" a higher countywide transit tax. (Spencer Weiner, Los Angeles Times / November 5, 2008)

By David Zahniser and Laura J. Nelson

March 31, 2014

A plan for increasing the sales tax to fix Los Angeles’ broken streets is on a collision course with a similar levy being pushed for regional transit projects.

Two weeks ago, the top budget advisor to the Los Angeles City Council said a tax increase is the only way thousands of miles of severely damaged roads and sidewalks will get repaired. A half-cent increase in the sales tax, which would generate $4.5 billion over 15 years, should appear on the November ballot, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said. The proposal will get its first public hearing Wednesday.

But public transit advocates are voicing worries that a city tax increase could jeopardize their proposal for a countywide sales tax increase for transportation projects, one that would go before voters in two years.

The back-to-back measures may undermine support for a second tax increase, said Denny Zane, whose organization Move L.A. is promoting the transit tax concept. “When you need a two-thirds vote,” to pass a transportation measure, “you don’t really start out with any margin for error,” he said.

If voters approve the street repair measure in November, the tax rate within Los Angeles’ city limits would jump to 9.5 cents on every $1 of retail sales. Passage of a countywide transit measure, which could raise $90 billion over 45 years, could send the city’s rate as high as 10 cents.

Los Angeles is one of 88 cities in the county but has roughly 40% of the county’s population, making it a crucial part of the electorate in deciding any regional transportation tax.

Zane’s organization held a daylong conference last week on the proposed transit tax, which could not reach the ballot without a vote from the 13-member Metro board. Dozens of speakers outlined the types of projects that could be built, including rail extensions to airports in Los Angeles and Burbank; light rail stretching across the South Bay; and a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass.

Bob Waggoner, a construction union leader who took part in the conference, said winning approval of a countywide transportation tax should take political precedence over a city measure.

“What’s certain is that if the city of Los Angeles passes a street measure in November, then there is going to be a problem passing another measure in 2016,” said Waggoner, political director of the International Union of Operating Engineers. If the proposed city tax is defeated, it still could create problems, he said. “We come back two years later and [voters say] ‘Here we go again, another tax.’ And there’s another chance of it being voted down.”

None of the city’s elected officials has come out in favor of a street repair tax, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is one of the Metro board’s 13 members. Councilman Mike Bonin, a Garcetti appointee on the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, has come out in favor of a transit tax in 2016. But he declined to comment on the city’s street tax proposal.

Another Metro board member, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said the transportation tax measure would offer greater regional benefits in air quality, traffic reduction and economic development. A tax increase for the Metro system, Ridley-Thomas said, would also attract more federal funding than a city streets measure.

“If you’re trying to ask the question, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck, then the argument swings pretty forcefully toward” a higher countywide transit tax, he said.

Garcetti has collected polling data on voters’ support for the proposal, but his spokesman, Jeff Millman, declined to release the results. He also declined to say where the mayor stands on the possible tax increases. “We’re reviewing the proposals,” he said.

April 2nd, 2014
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The Green Way: ‘We are part of one city called L.A.’ — Eric Garcetti – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Posted by GoldLine

The following article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on March 29, 2014.

The Green Way: ‘We are part of one city called L.A.’ — Eric Garcetti – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

By Steve Scauzillo

March 29, 2014

When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti went on a three-day trade trip to Mexico this month, he promoted not just businesses headquartered in the city of L.A. but companies in Rosemead and Pasadena.

For example, he said Parsons Engineering of Pasadena was the last U.S. company left helping build an expansion to Mexico City Airport, a $10 billion contract.

He jumped south to Rosemead-based Panda Express, saying he was happy to help the profitable fast-food company pave the way for 266 stores in Mexico because Panda promised to manufacture their food, including their famous orange chicken, in the San Gabriel Valley to maintain consistent standards.

Why promote companies outside the city of L.A.’s boundaries?

The obvious answer is jobs. Good jobs would be created in Southern California by these San Gabriel Valley companies doing business with Mexico, the state’s No. 1 trading partner. Some of those jobs undoubtedly will be filled by people living in Los Angeles.

Garcetti used the trade example to make a point to 200 transportation planners and independent city officials at a conference in Industry. Neither jobs nor transportation follows city boundaries. People don’t know who is mayor of what city or care, he said, if they are stuck in traffic on the 5 Freeway.

People live in one city and work in another, crossing boundaries like changing lanes.

Garcetti said he will promote both jobs and transit in the greater L.A. area, not just in Los Angeles.

“We are part of one city called L.A.,” he said in his speech Wednesday at the Pacific Palms Resort in front of officials from Diamond Bar, Glendora, Claremont, El Monte, Monterey Park as well as Los Angeles.

A few years ago, they’d be fighting words. Local folk were none-too-pleased with L.A. politicians.

Today, it’s fascinating how Garcetti can pull this off without stepping on jurisdictional toes. As former SGVN writer Chip Jacobs used to write, this is a sea change for the San Gabriel Valley.

First, there’s the way he said it.

He didn’t march into the belly of the San Gabriel Valley, beat his chest and proclaim “I’m king of the world,” as “Titanic” director James Cameron did on Oscar night.

His easy-going air and ever-present effervescence resembles a summer breeze, a fresh voice emanating from our neighbor to the west. Most in the room I spoke to said they believed Garcetti was sincere in his desire to lift all boats.

There were some politicos who told me he was preparing for his run up the political ladder, next step governor and then, Washington.

Of course he has political ambitions. But the way he’s growing a constituency, not chopping through one. Like my mother would tell me, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Just before the speech, he signed a blow-up of a Gold Line train, writing: “Let’s go East!” Later, he spoke words folks in the foothill cities have never heard from a Los Angeles mayor: “I am excited to champion the Gold Line project all the way to Claremont.”

In the past, San Gabriel Valley cities have tangled with his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who steered the MTA toward abandoning the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont. The Villaraigosa approach could be summed up as an “Only L.A. Matters” philosophy, a kind of let-the-rest-eat-cake edict.

Garcetti’s first move was outward. He invited 87 SoCal mayors to his house for a meet and greet. “The friendships and relationships formed across city borders cemented something new,” he said.

Now, he’s endorsing east-county projects with the caveat that east-county residents also endorse a line to LAX (finally) and a subway along Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood.

“Long gone are the days that say a subway is stealing money from the Valley or vice versa. I am fighting as hard for your transit plans as the ones we have in the city of L.A,” he said.

Perhaps Garcetti is echoing the late Rodney King who once said: “Can we all get along?”

The California water wars are back. But we may be seeing an end to the transit wars.

Steve Scauzillo covers transportation and the environment for the Los Angeles News Group. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz or email him at steve.scauzillo@langnews.com.

April 1st, 2014
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Construction Update and Picture of the Week

Posted by GoldLine

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti receiving a Foothill Gold Line hard hat after he added a message to the “halfway there” board yesterday. His message: “Let’s go east!”

March 27th, 2014
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More trains, buses and highways across region will ease traffic gridlock, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says – Pasadena Star-News

Posted by GoldLine

The following article appeared in the Pasadena Star-News on March 26, 2014.

More trains, buses and highways across region will ease traffic gridlock, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says – Pasadena Star-News

By Steve Scauzillo

March 26, 2014

INDUSTRY >> Saying no one in Southern California is immune to traffic nightmares, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed Wednesday to work alongside independent cities in the county to raise money for more trains, buses and highways that will ease gridlock.

“I want to be a better mayor for the entire region,” Garcetti told an audience of 200 leaders from throughout the county. “It used to be L.A. city is the 800-pound gorilla everyone loves to hate. I want to say those days are over.”

Going hand-in-hand with the mayor’s cooperation is a proposal to float another half-cent sales tax to fund new transit projects similar to Measure R, passed by county voters in November 2008. Measure R-2 or Measure X would be placed on the November 2016 ballot to coincide with an expected large voter turnout for president in the general election.

Political leaders said they are looking to the mayor, who sits on the MTA board and has tremendous influence on countywide transit projects, to pave the way for such a county measure.

Though Measure R is still on the books, the expected revenue of $40 billion over 30 years is falling short by about $4 billion. Also, the vision for a rail network connecting sprawling Southern California already would cost more than funds from Measure R.

“They’ve (MTA board members) made no decisions but it is an issue for discussion,” said MTA CEO Art Leahy, in an interview Wednesday. “It is 2½ years off; we’ll have to wait and see how it looks.”

Garcetti’s remarks were delivered at the San Gabriel Valley Transportation Forum held at the Pacific Palms Resort in Industry. Although the mayor did not mention new taxes, others on the program did, including Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA.

Zane has invited Garcetti to discuss “Measure R-2” at a conference Friday in downtown L.A. A flier for the program asks: “Is there a Measure R-2 framework that we can all support?” Zane predicted the measure would be a half-cent sales tax increase for 45 years and raise $90 billion.

Regional transportation planners laid out a mobility plan calling for a $525 billion investment over 25 years in everything from wider freeways to more light-rail lines and bikeways.

The Southern California Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan predicts the investment will create 175,000 jobs per year in Southern California in construction and operation.

Projects included in the plan are: A regional connector that will link the Gold Line light-rail with the Blue Line, enabling passengers to travel from Azusa to Long Beach without changing seats; an extension of the Crenshaw rail line into LAX; plus numerous freeway widening projects along the 5, 605 and 71 freeways.

“People are stuck in traffic. Separated from their families. They are, to quote that line from “Network,” ‘Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,’ “ Garcetti said.

Funding for highway projects will run dry in July, when the Highway Trust Fund is expected to go bankrupt, said Sharon Neely, chief deputy executive director of SCAG. Sen. Boxer is proposing a bill that would try out a user fee based on the amount of vehicle miles traveled in lieu of the 18.4-cents-per-gallon pump tax, Neely said.

“We haven’t had a gas tax increase for 20 years,” she said. “Yet it is not easy going back to your home city and say I support a gas tax increase or a user tax.”

Funding for a second extension of the Gold Line, from Azusa to Claremont, has not materialized. Yet, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority is moving ahead on engineering and designs this summer.

“Our project will be ready in 2017. If there is a sales tax initiative passed in 2016 we will be shovel ready and could complete the project by 2022,” said Habib Balian, CEO of the Authority.

The mayor of Los Angeles announced that he fully supports the Gold Line extension from Azusa to Claremont.

In the past, smaller cities in the county clashed with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but on Wednesday Duarte Mayor John Fasana, who represents the 31 San Gabriel Valley cities on the MTA board, welcomed the regional message brought by Garcetti to the inland areas.

“At times we’ve had to bare our knuckles and fight for the resources,” Fasana said. “Now, we see an unprecedented opportunity. This new era really bodes well for us.”

Garcetti did not mention Villaraigosa, who was viewed by cities in the San Gabriel Valley, the southeast county and the Inland Empire as a booster for only L.A.-centric projects and a roadblock to funding projects outside the L.A. city limits.“Whether in the San Gabriel Valley or inside other parts of L.A. County, the problems we are all attempting to solve don’t pay attention to borders,” Garcetti said.

Still, Garcetti spoke in favor of bicycle lanes and more “CicLAvia” type events, known as open streets, throughout the county, as a less expensive way to move people.

“Forty-seven percent of all car trips in L.A. County are less than three miles. Completing a three-mile trip on a bicycle is not hard to do. If you cruise, you won’t even break a sweat,” said speaker Javier Hernandez, program director of Bike San Gabriel Valley.

Gov. Brown has set aside $100 million in his budget for sustainable transportation methods, such as bikes, trains and clean buses, Neely said. SCAG is asking Brown to increase that to $500 million, she said.

March 27th, 2014
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Construction Update and Picture of the Week

Posted by GoldLine

This “Ballast Regulator” has been hard at work these last many weeks properly leveling out the ballast that supports the tracks. This is done after the tamping machine (not shown) corrects the alignment of the tracks to make them parallel and level.

March 21st, 2014
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