Gold Line extension to Claremont left off funding list by MTA – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The following article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on June 5, 2014.

Gold Line extension to Claremont left off funding list by MTA – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

By Steve Scauzillo

June 5, 2014

Members of the agency in charge of extending the Gold Line to Claremont were shocked this week to learn the project is not included on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Short Range Transportation Plan.

Already, the omission has rekindled the bad blood between the independent Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority and MTA, known as Metro, that began when the last 12-mile extension of the northerly portion of the rail line was left out of Metro’s long range planning in 2012.

Members of the Construction Authority board, including Metro board member John Fasana, a Duarte City Councilman, voted unanimously in May to direct Metro staff to list the full project in the plan.

So far, Metro has only given more than $851 million for the project’s first extension from east Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border, under construction and scheduled to be completed in September 2015. Monies for the entire project extension to Claremont and possibly beyond to Montclair or the Ontario International Airport are not mentioned.

“The board said in the motion that the Gold Line to Claremont should be included in the 10-year (short range) plan and should be on their future projects list,” explained Lisa Levy Bush, spokesperson for the Construction Authority.

The total cost of the Gold Line Foothill extension to Claremont is about $1.86 billion, a number the Metro staff does not recognize in the new document, she said.

But under Measure R, a half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2008 for transportation projects, the full project to Claremont was listed. The fact that voters approved the entire project is ammunition being used by board members and members of the state Legislature to get Metro to amend the short-range plan by including the entire Gold Line extension along the foothills of Los Angeles County.

“I am extremely disappointed and frustrated that the plan totally ignores a regional priority — completion of the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont,” wrote Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, in a letter to Metro’s Robert Calix, transportation planning manager, dated May 29.

Holden goes on to say that the extension was listed by Metro as a capital project in the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan as “first in line for any new funding sources outside federal New Starts,” yet the latest document doesn’t include the cost of the project to Claremont nor does it mention completion of the “voter-mandated project.”

Doug Tessitor, chairman of the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority Board, said it seems like every time the Gold Line takes a step forward, such as nearing completion of its first foothill extension, Metro wants to pull on the reins.

“We’ve always been the ugly step-child. They don’t want us to go to the dance,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Tessitor said he believes the board is more open to a regional approach to rail projects. He said new Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has tremendous power on the Metro board, has indicated his support for the foothill extension.

“I don’t think it is coming from the board. I think it is the Metro staff led probably by Art Leahy. I don’t know what his animus is against our project,” Tessitor said.

Metro CEO Leahy has been vocal about not supporting the Foothill extension to Claremont, Montclair or Ontario. At a San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments meeting in June 2012 he said: “The Gold Line is funded to Azusa. Period. There is no more money for the Gold Line (Foothill Extension).”

Metro’s short-range plan is an effort to appeal for more tax dollars, possibly through an additional tax measure for transportation set for the November 2016 ballot in Los Angeles County.

If additional funds were available, the plan calls for speeding up the completion dates for the following Metro projects:

Green Line Extension from 2035 to 2023; Westside subway (Purple Line Extension) from 2036 to 2025; LAX Metro Connector from 2028 to 2023; Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor from 2039 to 2027.

It also calls for speeding up a planned extension of the Eastside Gold Line from East Los Angeles to either South El Monte along the 60 Freeway corridor or to Whittier along Washington Boulevard from 2035 to 2025.

Comments on the Metro short-range plan are being taken until June 18. The Metro board is scheduled to vote on the plan at its July board meeting.

Glendora and Montclair have also written letters to Metro asking that the short-range plan include the full extension, Tessitor said.

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