This article originally appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on May 20, 2013.
MONTCLAIR – The debate over whether or not San Bernardino Associated Governments is in support of the Gold Line extension to this city was put to rest when its director personally addressed the council Monday night.
Raymond Wolfe, executive director of the transportation agency, assured the city council that he and his staff will support any efforts that will help bring the the light rail project the necessary 3,000 feet beyond the Los Angeles County Line to Montclair.
When completed, the Gold Line would run from LA to Montclair. Right now, it ends in east Pasadena with the next construction phase under way to Azusa. The next portion would take the route to Claremont and Montclair.
But Wolfe warned the council the challenges to push east past the LA County line won’t come from his agency.
“The primary competition for funding for Gold Line isn’t in this county,” he said. “When the Gold Line is actually funded east of Azusa our board will make the decision to figure out how to fund that last stretch to get it to Montclair.”
The politics in LA have been, as Wolfe described as “very heady.” Last year, when transportation proponents were trying to gain support for Measure J – which would have extended the county’s transportation tax – there was a lot of debate over what projects would get the funds.
At that time the CEO of Metro made it clear it could be decades before funding to push the Gold Line east of the Azusa station would be allocated, Wolfe explained to the council.
“At this point it doesn’t make sense for us to spend the limited amount of money that we have on studies for a project that may be decades in the future,” he said.
His presentation comes two weeks after several of the council members, including Bill Ruh, expressed their frustration with the agency over their concerns that SanBag was reluctant to back the rail project as well as the necessary steps to provide the $55 million needed for the extension.
Ruh went as far as to say the agency is instead focusing its attention on building “Lexus lanes” car pool or express lanes along the 10 Freeway rather than helping obtain the necessary funding for the rail project. Ruh was not present at Monday’s meeting.
During his brief presentation to the council, Wolfe told the board that some of the funding for the project would come from Measure I, a San Bernardino County sales tax measure for transportation improvement projects.
When the measure was taken to the voters in 2004 it specifically outlined the transportation projects that it would fund, setting aside 8 percent of the funds for rail projects, Wolfe said.
But the Gold Line extension is not the only project eligible to receive the 8 percent of the annual revenues set aside for rail projects, Wolfe said.
The eligible expenditures in the rail program include purchasing new rail stock, new locomotives for existing Metrolink service, adding parking lots as well as an extension to the Redlands rail line.
SanBag receives about $8 million to $9 million annually through revenues collected from the measure, he added.
“I want to make it really clear that I do support the Gold Line extending across the county line to Montclair Transit Center,” he said.
Following the presentation Councilman John Dutrey, who was among the council members to raise their concerns with SanBag, thanked Wolfe for his leadership.
“We just wanted to have an understanding that SanBag is truly interested in this project,” Dutrey said. “I understand in this process I can see there is strong commitment. This project is all about money and I realize LA County is a major factor in the Gold Line extension to Montclair.”