Gold Line officials look to ballot measure for extension project from Azusa to Montclair – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

The following story originally appeared on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin website on October 24, 2013.

Gold Line officials look to ballot measure for extension project from Azusa to Montclair

By Wes Woods

CLAREMONT >> Gold Line Construction Authority officials say they are trying to get the next segment of the Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail line from Azusa to Montclair funded through a ballot measure in 2014 or 2016.

“That’s our expectation that there would be a new ballot initiative in the future, similar to what they did with Measure R (sales-tax funding in 2008),” said Habib Balian, executive director of the authority on Wednesday after a Gold Line extension project kick-off event. “We want to work with the Metro board as they compile a list of projects for potential ballot initiatives. We’d like to be part of that list.”

Officials said the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension, overseen by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, is a $1.7 billion, 24-mile extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail system.

Balian said he had “preliminarily” talked to Metro officials.

“The process has started,” Balian said. “Mike Antonovich started it about six months ago. Diane Dubois picked it up now as the new Metro chair. They’re soliciting projects, trying to get everybody focused on what is a consensus around a list of projects potentially. We have no funding for construction. There is no funding. We can go to federal, state sources, we can look other places, but right now we think that a local initiative is probably the best alternative for the project.”

On Wednesday, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Claremont, officials gave a detailed project background with future station and parking plans.

Also discussed was station art which included artists such as Steve Farley, an Arizona State senator who was born in San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland and raised in Ontario before he designed Pomona’s art using the L.A. County Fair and old signs.

“So being able to project that sense of optimism and fun is part of obviously a fun part of the county fair,” Farley said. “Every year, I used to go there as a kid, a fun zone kind of thing … The other letters in that proposal are basically gathered from different famous Pomona signs,”

Officials said they are getting the project “shovel ready” by 2017 with the help of an approved funding agreement with Metro for $36 million of Measure R funding used for planning, design and environmental work.

“That is our goal,” Balian said. “And to get to 2017 shovel ready takes more than just funding for construction which of course we know doesn’t come out of the sky. You have to be prepared for it. You have to plan for it. The only way you’re going to get those dollars is to be ready. By ready I mean to have a significant amount of planning, design, engineering and consensus available to you to get those funds.”

A best-case scenario for completed construction would be 2022, Balian said.

The Pasadena to Azusa portion of the project, funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R funds, has a completed construction date to be turned over to Metro on September 2015, Balian said.

“We’ve gotten through most everything. Most of our challenges are manageable from this point to the next couple of years,” Balian said.

Claremont mayor Opanyi Nasiali said the presentation was “very well done,” and he was happy to hear the information about funding.

“We know what to expect,” Nasiali said. “It’s the biggest elephant in the room.”

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