Gold Line cities want light-rail’s Azusa-to-Claremont extension on funding list – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The following article originally appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune website on June 19, 2013.

Gold Line cities want light-rail’s Azusa-to-Claremont extension on funding list

Foothill officials say Metro is going against the voter-approved Measure R

By Steve Scauzillo,

FILE PHOTO: Gold Line Operations Campus in Monrovia is being built as part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa light rail project. The total cost of the Operations Campus is 265 million and is funded in part by Measure R (cost includes land, design and construction. When completed, the facility's main building includes sustainability measures that will qualify it for Silver LEED Design Certification. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)

The San Gabriel Valley foothill cities have a message for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority when its executive committee meets Thursday to approve a faster spending plan for 12 new transit projects: Hello. Remember us?

The 13 cities from South Pasadena to Ontario, part of a joint powers authority formed to extend the Gold Line light-rail train from the Sierra Madre Villa station in east Pasadena to Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, Azusa, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, Montclair and if San Bernardino County takes the handoff — Ontario, too — are feeling ignored.

That’s because the second half of their extension, the one that will extend the light-rail from Azusa to the county line in Claremont, the one that will cost about $950 million for which no funding is available, is not listed on Metro’s Measure R Expenditure Plan Amendment.

“They issued a draft amendment expenditure plan that ignored our project,” said Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Why is this so important?

Well, the Metro board is the gatekeeper for all county train projects, and that list keeps growing, pushing the Gold Line Foothill Extension project farther and farther down the list.

Metro is using the $40 billion from the one-half cent sales tax called Measure R passed by voters to fund various capital projects over the next three decades. For example, the sales tax measure is funding the Expo Line from USC to Culver City and about $758 million is being used for the first part of the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa. That phase is under construction and set to be completed at the end of 2015, Balian said.

But the Gold Line extension was listed in the taxpayer measure as running from “Pasadena to Claremont” at a cost of $1.714 billion. And Balian, the aforementioned cities, the League of Women Voters and others want to see Metro keep a promise it made to the San Gabriel Valley voters to build the whole thing. And if it won’t fund the second half of the extension, then at least list it so it can be recognized by the federal government when the foothill cities go looking for federal dollars.

Right now, even with the new expenditure amendment, the 12.3-mile Azusa-to-Claremont leg is not listed in any funding plan. The soonest Metro says it would get to funding this leg would be 2060, Balian said.

Metro wants to acquire $9.4 billion through federal grants and loans to expedite 12 train projects in 10 years and accelerate 15 highway projects. The train projects include the building of a subway to the sea under West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills that could cost as much as $700 million a mile. While L.A.-centric projects get top priority, suburban ones don’t, said Doug Tessitor, chairman of the Gold Line construction authority and a Glendora city council member.

The Authority, as well as the mayors of Pasadena, La Verne and Claremont, wrote letters to the Metro board asking it to correct its expenditure plan amendment to include the Azsua-to-Claremont extension as part of the entire project. These cities also call the Metro document “inaccurate” and “deficient.”

La Verne Mayor Don Kendrick wrote the plan doesn’t explain how adding new projects and expediting others will affect those already approved by voters in Measure R. “The plan must show how the allocation of funds by Metro, and the additional cost, will impact completion of other Measure R projects,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Metro Board Chairman Supervisor Mike Antonovich on June 13.

In a lengthy staff report, Metro said: “LACMTA will continue to work with the Authority to further advance the project,” including helping it qualify for federal funding, but nothing more specific.

After Thursday’s committee meeting, the full Metro board will consider the expenditure plan amendment at its regular board meeting, 9:30 a.m. June 27.

“As always, this is a board decision and will be up to the full board to decide its fate,” said Metro spokesman Rick Jager.

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