The following article appeared in the San Bernardino County Sentinel on February 20, 2015.
Panel Recommends Using $33M To Start Gold Line Extension To Montclair – San Bernardino County Sentinel
February 20, 2015
The effort to extend Los Angeles County’s light rail system into San Bernardino County lurched forward this week with a key committee’s request that $33 million in available sales-tax funds be earmarked to begin formal planning and the bid process for the next logical extension of the line eastward, a 12.3-mile span from Azusa to Montclair.
The Gold Line is a 19.7-mile light rail line running from East Los Angeles to Pasadena, work toward which began in 1998 with the creation of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. The Metro Gold Line Extension Construction Authority was founded with the intention of resuming design, contracting and construction of the Los Angeles to Pasadena rail line formerly referred to as the Pasadena Blue Line after the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority had suspended work on it that same year.
The newly formed Construction Authority completed the Los Angeles to Pasadena segment, which served several locations including Downtown Los Angeles, Little Tokyo, Union Station, the Southwest Museum, Chinatown, and Old Town Pasadena, in 2003. Since that time, work has begun and is slated for completion in September on an 11.5 mile extension of the line from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border.
The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority board, consisting of Glendora City Councilman Doug Tessitor, Claremont City Councilman Sam Pedroz, Los Angeles city employee Marisol Rodriquez, Attorney Daniel M. Evans, Ontario Mayor Paul Leon , Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner, Duarte City Councilman John Fasana, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaar and California Department of Transportation District 7 Director Carrie Bowen, is now pushing for the preparation of the next phase of the project, the projected $1.18-billion Azusa-to-Montclair extension.
It is projected that some $33 million left over from the Pasadena to Azusa construction project will be available and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority asked that the money be put to work immediately on planning and preconstruction preparations for the next extension.
An Environmental Impact Report for the Azusa-to-Montclair phase has already been completed.
While the extension construction authority board has put a high priority on the Azusa-to-Montclair extension, the project fits within a context of a much larger urban transportation complex, and other governmental entities and authorities do not put the same priority on the project. And while there is considerable enthusiasm for the project in Montclair and Ontario, support for the project elsewhere in the local area is more tepid. Ironically, Los Angeles County municipal and transportation officials are stronger promoters of the Azusa-to-Montclair extension, on balance, than their San Bernardino County counterparts, even though the project will further tie-in the interior county to one of the most dynamic metropolitan areas in the world.
The Gold Line is one of six in the Los Angeles Metro Rail system. Though that system has competing funding priorities, the firm establishment of the other components of the system makes eastward expansion a desirable outcome. Eliminating the flow of vehicular traffic into Los Angeles would be of benefit to Angelinos, who now must live in a congested environment.
According to the environmental impact study already completed for the Azusa-to-Montclair extension, some 17,800 passengers would use the train daily, reflecting a like decline in the number of vehicles on the 210 and 10 freeways. The decline in vehicular traffic would increase speeds on the freeways, reduce commuting time and reduce exhaust emissions.
Under tentative projections for the budgeting of the Azusa-to-Montclair extension, San Bernardino County, through its transportation agency, SANBAG (an acronym for San Bernardino Associated Governments), is being asked to put up $55 million of the total $1.18 billion cost, which is roughly 4.64 percent of the price involved.
But SANBAG officials are not wholeheartedly in favor of utilizing money that agency it has to play with. That money is derived from a countywide half cent sales tax collected for augmenting county transportation systems.
When Montclair and Ontario officials pushed SANBAG in 2013 to undertake studies on the extension, SANBAG, which as a whole considers the extension of the Mettrolink commuter line to Redlands and the double-tracking of the Metrolink lines near Upland, Claremont, and Fontana to be more important rail projects than the Gold Line, balked.
Ontario officials see the Gold Line extension as an important component in improving transportation options to compliment Ontario International Airport. It is anticipated that after the extension of the Gold Line to Montclair is completed, Ontario will push for an extension from the Montclair station south and further east, with a stop at or near the airport.
The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority’s recommendation for utilizing the $33 million toward facilitating the Azusa-to-Montclair extension comes just prior to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments making its own decision with regard to its prioritization of rail transportation projects on the drawing board in central and east Los Angeles County, including the Azusa-to-Montclair extension, another rails system extension along the 60 Freeway to South El Monte, one along Washington Boulevard to Whittier and a side extension of the Gold Line from Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles.
Even assuming the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments gives top second priority to the Azusa-to-Foothill extension, the project will still need to garner priority support from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which must apportion its funding and is simultaneously weighing the benefits of other projects on the west side of Los Angeles, including the extension of the Purple Line subway beneath Wilshire Boulevard connecting to Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood.
Should the Azusa-to-Montclair extension receive adequate funding from both Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, construction could begin in 2017 and be completed by 2023.