LA Metro Makes Gold Line Foothill Extension Its No. 1 Priority For State Funds


With two out of three unfunded LA Metro rail projects given no money by the state transportation agency earlier this year, supporters of those projects have asked, what is Plan B?

LA Metro’s board on Thursday, March 23, declared the 3.2-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont and Montclair its number one priority for the next round of state funding grants, including its consideration for inclusion in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2023-2034 state budget. The foothill line was Metro’s second place priority in a recent round of state grants.

Crews install light-rail tracks on completed light-rail bridge over Bonita Avenue and Cataract Avenue intersection in San Dimas on March 10, 2023. (photo courtesy of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority).

Crews install relocated freight track at Fulton Road grade crossing in Pomona for the Gold Line (now L Line) extension from Azusa to Pomona on Feb. 10, 2022. The extension of the LA Metro light rail line is funded to Pomona. But not to Claremont and Montclair, as planned for decades. Metro on Thursday, Dec. 1, applied to the state for $798 million to complete the line. It was one of three rail projects in an application being sent to Sacramento for funding out of a state budget surplus. But on Jan. 31, 2023, they were denied the grant. On March 23, 2023, LA Metro made the project the No. 1 priority for receiving future state funding.(image courtesy of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority)

Map shows route of extension of the L Line currently under construction to Pomona, to be completed in 2025. The portion to Claremont and Montclair is unfunded. (courtesy of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority).

Now called the “L Line,” the extension from Azusa to Pomona is being built entirely with local taxpayer dollars. When completed in 2025, the light-rail line will include 23 out of 24 stations in Los Angeles County, missing only Claremont. A one-mile section to Montclair in San Bernardino County is fully funded.

Nine state lawmakers, acting as part of the San Gabriel Valley Legislative Caucus, wrote a Jan. 31 letter to Metro bluntly stating their unhappiness after the state’s light rail funding awards were announced. They wrote: “We were disappointed to see The California State Transportation Agency fund the Inglewood Transit Connector before the number two and three priorities LA Metro submitted for the transit dollars made available for Southern California in the 2022-23 budget.”

CalSTA went against those legislators, giving $407 million to an Inglewood people mover project that will carry football and basketball fans to SoFi stadium and to the Los Angeles Clippers stadium being built in Inglewood. CalSTA did, however, grant LA Metro its top priority — $600 million for the East San Fernando Valley light-rail project.

The misnamed West Santa Ana Branch line, Metro’s third priority this year, was also skipped over. It would be a 19.3-mile light-rail line from downtown L.A. into southeast L.A. County cities. It was moved up to number two on Metro’s priority list in Thursday’s board action.

Local congressional members also wrote to Metro, asking that it move the Gold Line extension to Montclair to its highest priority for state funds.

“The unfunded project is environmentally cleared, has undergone advanced engineering and pre-construction utility work and is shovel ready,” wrote Reps. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena and Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte. “The small portion of the system planned in San Bernardino County is equally ready and has already secured full funding.”

The Metro board heard from several mayors, as well as the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership and Citrus College, all urging a stronger push for state dollars to complete the Gold Line’s foothill line. With about $40 million saved from the Azusa-to-Pomona extension, the amount needed is about $758 million.

Claremont Mayor Ed Reece said the project can be completed in five years. But if funding is delayed again, costs may rise and completion may be delayed. The project has been plagued by rising costs since 2018.

“This project will create 5,500 jobs and a billion dollars in economic output. It will take tens of thousands of cars off the roads each day,” said Reece.

A report by Metro says the Gold Line foothill extension has been a part of its regional plan since the early 1990s. It was included in Metro’s 2009 and 2020 Long Range Transportation Plan. Completion to Montclair would reduce car trips by an estimated 15,000 daily, and 26.7 million vehicle miles annually, studies show.

La Verne Mayor Tim Hepburn says the Gold Line extension would be the only light-rail project connecting Los Angeles, Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley with the Inland Empire. The line to the IE is seen as cutting the car traffic commuting to and from jobs in L.A. County, jamming the 210 Freeway and creating toxic air emissions in the San Gabriel and eastern San Fernando valleys.

Montclair City Council member Bill Ruh told the Metro board his city has already built about 2,000 housing units around the future station. Mayor John Dutrey said the city is meeting its state-mandated housing goals but not being rewarded.

“Yesterday’s action was important, as Sacramento continues to support funding for transit in the upcoming budget cycles,” wrote Foothill Gold Line CEO Habib Balian in an emailed response on Friday, March 24.

Newsom has indicated that he plans to reduce the $4 billion that was set aside for transit projects in the state budget. But Metro is lobbying him to keep the transportation funding pot whole.

“We are all prepared to do whatever it takes to make the state see these projects are worthy,” said L.A.  County Supervisor and Metro board member Kathryn Barger, whose district includes large parts of the San Gabriel Valley.

Vittorio Rienzo

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