Lawmakers seek $540 million from state to push Gold Line to Montclair – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

A group of state legislators representing the San Gabriel Valley and western San Bernardino County have written a letter to the Senate and Assembly budget committee chairs asking that a slice of the state surplus be used to finance completion of the Gold Line, renamed the L Line, to Montclair.

About 15 state lawmakers, mostly from the “San Gabriel Valley Legislative Caucus,” are making a concerted push for the Legislature to allocate $540 million to close the funding gap and extend the light-rail line that originates in Los Angeles another 3.3 miles into Claremont and Montclair. The work would complete a 12.3-mile extension of the line currently under construction from Azusa to Pomona.

“The Foothill Gold Line light rail project from Glendora to Montclair will extend light rail service 12.3-miles and add six stations to the LA Metro light rail system. It will connect Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties; a first for the region, crossing county lines and expanding opportunities for transit ridership to Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside County residents, workers, students and visitors,” reads the letter dated May 7, 2021.

Completing the final leg of the longest light-rail line in the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority history will be extremely expensive, costing about $1 million per mile more than the current Azusa-to-Pomona segment. Major portions of existing infrastructure must be torn down, moved, built and re-built, plus the cost of steel, lumber and other building materials continues to rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gold Line latest map august 2019
Gold Line Foothill Extension approved to Pomona. To get to Claremont and Montclair, more funding is needed. State lawmakers are urging the governor and the state budget committees to fund the extension using state surplus dollars. (courtesy Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority).

Engineering and construction in Claremont includes: demolishing the existing Metrolink station and moving it across the street, with an L’ Line station built in its place; laying temporary tracks for both Metrolink and freight rail to be removed once permanent tracks are laid; and erecting four train bridges over Monte Vista Avenue, Garey Avenue, Towne Avenue and Indian Hill Boulevard. Each are estimated to cost about $30 million.

The lawmakers, joined by the cities of Montclair and Claremont, are racing against the clock. A contract already awarded to Kiewit-Parsons nearly two years ago includes environmental approval and a locked-in price to build to Montclair, but that window closes at the end of October.

“This project has already been bid out and it is not going to get any cheaper,” said Claremont Councilman Ed Reece, who sits on the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority board and chairs its construction committee.

If fully funded, the extension to Montclair has a completion date of 2028 and is expected to increase ridership on the L Line by 8,100 daily boardings by 2028, and 18,000 more by 2042. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced ridership by 60%, the line carried an average weekday ridership of 52,000 in 2017.

Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, a member of a key state transportation committee, has led the effort. He said the state budget may include about $5.3 billion for transportation projects, part of the surplus the lawmakers want to tap.

“If not now, then when? We have a chance now, and for our region there is nothing bigger than the Gold Line,” Holden said.

“A driving issue for all of us is to link the two counties — to extend from Los Angeles County into San Bernardino County,” he said.

He’s also asking for a feasibility study to extend the Gold Line westerly from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Bob Hope/Burbank Airport.

Holden said the legislators who signed the letter also gained support from labor groups and from Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis. The project will generate 17,000 jobs, the legislators wrote.

Montclair has planned for higher-density housing around the future light-rail stop, which would join bus and Metrolink stations at the Montclair TransCenter. The city last fall approved a revamp of Montclair Place mall to include housing and a separate, mixed-use project of 350 apartments called “The Village of Montclair” that is built on the concept of walking distance to the light-rail train station.

Montclair City Manager Edward Starr said the project fits in with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “28 by 2028” list of projects to be completed the year the Olympics come to Los Angeles. Starr said Claremont would be part of the Olympics. Also, because the extension is being built, albeit only to Pomona, and has state environmental approval, it is what Starr called “shovel ready” — making it more amenable to state lawmakers to fund in the budget.

“I am optimistic,” Starr said last week. “The governor indicated he will set a portion (of the state’s surplus) for transit projects. I would think we would be atop that list.”

Montclair Mayor John Dutrey, who sits on the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority Board, said the agency has set aside $80 million for its leg of the L Line extension from a combination of local, state and Intercity Rail Capital Program sources. The Montclair leg will cost about $97 million, leaving a gap that Dutrey said will be covered should the state allocate the full $540 million.

Montclair, Claremont and Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, had tried to get the project included in President Joseph Biden’s infrastructure plan a few months ago. But since the project is not federally certified, it may not qualify. So the cities and L Line backers have turned to the state.

State lawmakers who signed the letter include: Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park; Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park; Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino; Holden and Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park.