The following article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on December 8, 2014.
First train car pulled across Foothill Gold Line tracks in Arcadia, Monrovia – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Steve Scauzillo
December 8, 2014
For the first time, a light-rail train car rode the tracks of the Gold Line Foothill extension Monday, successfully crossing the 210 Freeway and navigating stations in Arcadia, Irwindale and Monrovia.
The achievement brings the $1 billion,11.5-mile extension from east Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border one step closer to reality, officials said.
“This is of course the first of many months of testing ahead. It is an important milestone for the project, which continues on time and on budget for completion in just 10 months,” said Habib Balian, CEO of the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority in a statement.
The rail-car testing, ordered by the California Public Utilities Commission, will test clearances between the train and stations, the wheel and rail interface and the overhead catenary system which supplies electrical power to the light-rail, Balian said.
Live testing of the electrical power system will take place in the next two weeks between California Avenue in Monrovia and the San Gabriel River bridge in Irwindale, Balian explained.
A hi-rail big-rig pulled the $4 million, 100,000-pound AnsaldoBreda P2250-model train car about 5 miles traveling eastward from the Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena, across the freeway bridge designed by Andrew Leicester that stretches over the eastbound 210 lanes, and downhill to the at-grade intersection at First Street and Santa Clara Avenue in downtown Arcadia.
Just after noon, the train lingered at the Arcadia station platform for about 75 minutes as workers adjusted pieces of the blue Styrofoam “wings” affixed to the train and measured the clearances, sources said.
The Styrofoam wings marked the outer limits of the “dynamic envelope” of the train, which moves side to side at higher speeds, explained Lisa Levy Buch, Gold Line Construction Authority spokesperson.
After several stops and starts marked by sharp blasts of the train whistle, the silver rail car was pulled through the intersection as a sheriff’s patrol car blocked vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Passers-by, employees from the Construction Authority and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the latter which will be tasked with operating the train, recorded history by snapping photos and taking videos.
“This is an historic moment,” said Doug Tessitor, a Glendora city councilman and Pasadena’s appointee to the Construction Authority board. Tessitor, who serves as chairman, was excited about the new line but concerned that Metro would not have enough trains to fully operate it once construction is finished in late September.
The issue of trains arriving from producer Kinkisharyo International, a Japanese company assembling train cars in Palmdale, to supply the Foothill and Expo Line Phase 2 from Culver City to Santa Monica, remains a concern, as first raised by this newspaper in November. While Metro has assured operators of both construction authorities there will be enough train cars, the mega agency has said the two lines will be completed in summer 2016, a year or so after the local agencies say, and that the trains would be delivered to Metro by January 2017.
Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales, who came to watch the first test train Monday, said Metro must do extensive testing and hire and train new operators before the Gold Line extension line can operate. Operators won’t be pulled off existing lines, he said.
Among the spectators was Alan Weeks, 82, of Eagle Rock, a former Metro employee. For Weeks, seeing the train on the new tracks was like going back to the future.
“I rode the last (Pacific Electric) Red Car here; it was on Sept. 30, 1951,” Weeks said.
He remembers watching with tears as demolition crews tore up the Red Line tracks in Monrovia and Arcadia. But he’s also optimistic about the new Gold Line, even the phase that is not yet funded to reach Montclair.
“As soon as this line opens up, there will be a great interest in it,” he predicted. That will lead to political pressure to fund the next phase from Glendora to Montclair, he said.
Train-watcher Bob Davis of San Gabriel said whenever he rides the train to Los Angeles/Union Station, he sees the benefit as he looks out the window onto the clogged 210 Freeway. “The train is going 55 mph and the cars are going 5 mph,” he said.
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