Metro Foothill Gold Line wants MTA to include project extension to Claremont in short-term plan – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The following article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on June 27, 2014.

Metro Foothill Gold Line wants MTA to include project extension to Claremont in short-term plan – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

By Steve Scauzillo

June 27, 2014

After weeks of negotiations with the powerful Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the independent San Gabriel Valley train-building agency came away with a dotted line on a map between east Azusa and Claremont.

That dotted line on the MTA’s Short Range Transportation Plan does represent the third segment of the foothills route of the Gold Line light-rail. But that pictorial concession is not enough to get MTA to commit to closing the project’s $1 billion funding gap, proponents say.

On Thursday, the two sides continued their battles in a funding war that could end July 17 when the region’s subway extension and highway widening projects come before the full governing board of the MTA known as Metro.

“Without full inclusion of the project to Claremont … the plan treats the Foothill Gold Line to Claremont differently than other under-funded Measure R projects,” wrote Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority Chairman Doug Tessitor of Glendora on Thursday in a letter to MTA chief Art Leahy.

The two sides have been jockeying for placement of the unfunded Gold Line extension from Azusa to Claremont on a 10-year funding plan for months. The Gold Line folks erupted last month when they learned the MTA did not include their project in the transportation plan at all.

Three members of Congress wrote a joint letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who wields tremendous power on the MTA board. Reps. Adam Schiff, Grace Napolitano and Judy Chu wrote asking MTA to make changes to its funding plan.

“We are dismayed to learn that Metro’s draft plan once again ignores the completion of this voter-mandated project,” they wrote on June 20.

Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by county voters for transportation projects in 2008, listed the foothill Gold Line extension from east Pasadena to Claremont, a $1.86 billion project. However, Metro only funded about $860,000 for the first leg of the extension, which is on schedule and will be completed in September 2015, according to the authority. The line opened in 2003 from downtown’s Union Station to Pasadena.

Tessitor’s letter asks Metro to include the full project to Claremont with a completion date of 2022 — well within the 10-year plan’s endpoint. The letter also asks that the Azusa-to-Claremont project become a “first priority project” for new funding for future transit and highway projects.

The congressional letter says Metro included the full foothill Gold Line extension as one of four priority capital projects in its 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan, so it makes sense to include it in the short-range document.

But doing so without indicating the full cost of the project would be “an empty gesture,” wrote the members of Congress.

The Azusa to Claremont light-rail line is environmentally cleared and will be ready for a design-build phase in 2017 for completion in 2022, according to the authority and the members of Congress.

In their letter, the elected officials say the federal government is ready to fund the county’s transportation projects, which include a phased extension of the westside subway to Westwood.

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